Insect Order Hymenoptera Fossils Gallery - Ants, Bees and Wasps

Insect Fossils

Ant, Bee and Wasp Fossils of Insect Order Hymenoptera

Also see:
Insect Fossils
Evolution of Insect Eusociality
Of related interest:
Fossil Amber (Resin)


Hymenopteran insects, include bees, ants, and a diverse insect taxa referred to as wasps and are believed to have first appeared in the Triassic more than 200 million years ago. Many Hymenoptera are extremely social insects. For example, honeybees and ants have developed regimented social systems in which members are divided into worker, drone, and queen castes.

Interestingly, such social hymenoptera may live together in nests or hives of many thousands of individuals, all descended form a single queen. In this case, for the non-sexual insects, the assurance that their genes will persist depends on the nurturing of their many siblings, an entirely different construct of evolution than is normally the case for animals. Female worker bees will often kill their brothers giving favor to their sisters with whom they share 75% of their DNA.

Fossil Ants, Bees and Wasps


L ower Cretaceous
Liaoning Province, China
Scelionid Wasp in Fossil Amber
Family Scelionidae
Oligocene - Miocene
Dominican Republic

These wasps are known to parasitize a diverse variety of insects
Lower Cretaceous
Crato Formation, Brazil
Family Formicidae
Flying ant in Colombian fossil amber
Fossil Hymenopteran from Liaoning
Stingless bees in amber.
Stingless bees gathered fresh resin on their back legs, bringing it to the nest as construction material. Having no sting (hence the name), they would defend their nest with their mandibles (notice the overbite).
Leaf cutter ant in Colombian amber
Stingless Bee
Dominican Amber

These bees swarm out to proect the nest by using the mouthparts which can inflict a painful bite. The older members of the hive were sent out to collect resin for nest repair, a hazardous task from which some never returned. Some have been found with balls of resin attached to their hind legs.
22 mm dinosaur age bee from Liaoning China .
Two 10 mm stingless bees in death embrace in amber.
Various ants in Colombian amber
Large, 8 mm stingless bee in Colombian amber
Large, 14mm flying ant in Colombian amber
Upper Cretacious to Lower Jurassic ant in shale from Liaoning China Province, Peoples Republic of China
Pteromalid Parasitic Wasp
Family Pteromalidae
Oligocene - Miocene
Dominican Republic

These wasps are known to parasitize a diverse variety of insects; some are even predatory, feeding directly on eggs, larvae, and adult insects of several types. A few are what are known as hyperparasitiods, parasitizing other types of parasitic wasps.