The Vespoidea are a superfamily of wasps in the order Hymenoptera, although older taxonomic schemes may vary in this categorization, particularly in their recognition of a now-obsolete superfamily Scolioidea, as well as the relationship to ants. The Vespoidea contains well-known insects such as the social wasps and ants as well as less well-known insects such as solitary wasps, with a large variety of lifestyles: eusocial, social, and solitary habits, predators, scavengers, parasitoids, and some herbivores.

Solitary wasps often build cells in the earth, in hollow plant stems or old beetle borings, to lay their eggs. They fill these cells up with the larva’s preferred prey (for example, caterpillars or spiders). They actively hunt for the prey and sting them with venom. This will paralyze, but not kill, the victim and keep it fresh for their young.

The relationships of taxa within the Vespoidea are much better known than for those in the Apoidea, but recent work on the two major groups of bees (by Michener and colleagues) and various groups of sphecoid wasps (by Alexander and Melo) have provided greater clarity, for some families at least.

Phylogenetic families

  • Armaniidae – “ant-like wasps”
  • Bradynobaenidae – bradynobaenid wasps
  • Chyphotidae – chyphotid wasps
  • Mutillidae – velvet ants/velvet wasps
  • Myrmosidae – myrmosid wasps
  • Pompilidae – spider wasps
  • Rhopalosomatidae – rhopalosomatid wasps
  • Sapygidae – sapygid wasps
  • Scoliidae – scoliid wasps
  • Sierolomorphidae – sierolomorphid wasps
  • Thynnidae – thynnid wasps
  • Tiphiidae – tiphiid wasps
  • Vespidae – paper wasps, hornets, potter wasps, yellow jackets, and relatives


  1. Phylogeny and evolution of wasps, ants and bees (Hymenoptera, Chrysidoidea, Vespoidea and Apoidea) Denis J. Brothers
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