Hymenoptera (Wasps, ants and bees)

Ants, wasps and bees all fall within the Hymenoptera. In this order, the front and hind wings are locked together by a tiny row of hooks (remember that male and queen ants have wings!) It is a little unclear why they’re called Hymenoptera from the Greek humen “membrane” + pteron “wing”).

thumbnail masked bee native-ants

Insects coming soon

Rhopalum perforator Smith 1876

REDUCED NZ-Ento-Soc-Insect-Playing-Cards_RhopalumCommon name: Sphecoid wasp

Order: Hymenoptera  Family: Sphecidae

Size: 7- 14 mm long

These wasps hunt for flies on sunny day, sometimes catching prey as they visit flowers. The wasps will sting their prey to immobilise them and then carry them back to their nests for their larvae. These wasps nest in twigs and holes dug into trees by beetles and each nest is usually made up of between 7-11 cells. The females place their immobilised prey into these cells, lay eggs on them and then close the cells up with frass.


Harris, A., & Landcare Research New Zealand. (1994). Sphecidae (Insecta: Hymenoptera) (Fauna of New Zealand ; no. 32). Lincoln, N.Z.: Manaaki Whenua Press.



Hylaeus agilis Meade-Waldo 1923

REDUCED_NZ-Ento-Soc-Insect-Playing-Cards_Masked-Beel REDCommon name: Masked bee

Order: Hymenoptera   Family: Colletidae

Size: 7-9mm

Hylaeus agilis visit a wide range of native and exotic flowers and, in some places, they play a particularly important role in pollinating New Zealand mistletoe (Peraxilla tetrapetala). The flowers of these plants have to be forced open and this is usually done by honey-eater birds such as bellbirds and tui. Unfortunately, in some places these birds aren’t very common so it’s been up to H. agilis and some Leioproctus species to pop open the flowers themselves. Given that they’re a lot smaller than the flowers this takes a lot of effort for the bees but the flowers which they pollinate go on to produce a larger fruit set.

These bees are solitary and make nests in twigs and beetle holes in trees.




Early, J. ‘Wasps and bees’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/wasps-and-bees/sources (accessed 1 December 2016)

Robertson, A.W., Ladley, J.J., & Kelly, D. (2005). The effectiveness of short-tongued bees as pollinatorsof apparently “ornithophilous” New Zealand mistletoes. Austral Ecology 30: 298-309





Leioproctus fulvescens (Smith 1876)

REDUCED NZ-Ento-Soc-Insect-Playing-Cards_Native-BeeCommon name: Hairy colletid bees

Order: Hymenoptera   Family: Colletidae

Size: 5-12mm

You may be surprised to know that New Zealand has several of native bee species of its own. They’re generally smaller than the common honey bee and aren’t striped. But the thing that probably makes them most different from honey bees is that they don’t have colonies! As solitary bees, females dig nest holes in the ground. In each chamber, females lay just one egg and supply this underground nursery with pollen to feed the larva that eventually hatches.

Although you don’t see them as often as honey bees, native bees are very important pollinators of native flowers. We have multiple species of Leioproctus. The majority of them look like small black honey bees (Apis mellifera) except for L. fulvescens, a South Island species, which is covered in dense orange hair. The different species prefer different kinds of soil. L. fulvescens prefers fine-grained soil.



T.E.R:R.A.I.N Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network (Last updated June 2016). Bee (Native) Genus: Leioproctus. Retrieved from http://www.terrain.net.nz/friends-of-te-henui-group/bees-and-wasps/native-bee.html

Three endemic ants


Scientific names: A) Monomorium antarcticum (Fr. Smith 1858), B) Huberia striata (Smith 1876), C) Pachycondyla castaneicolor (Dalla Torre, 1893)

Common names: A) Southern ant, B) Striated ant, C) No common name.

Māori name: pōpokoriki, pokorua, pokopokorua, pōpokorua,  nonoko, rōroro, torotoro and upokorua)

Order: Hymenoptera   Family: Formicidae

Size: A) 3-5 mm, B) 4.5 – 5mm, C)  5.5–6.4 mm

There are only 11 species of native ant found in New Zealand although there are 29 other introduced species found around the country. This is in comparison to Australia which, despite being such close neighbours, has over 1200 described species of ants!

Monomorium antarcticum is widespread across all of New Zealand including its offshore islands, and can be found across a diverse range of habitats including native forests, grasslands and urban environments, but are not usually considered a pest. M. antarcticum is by far New Zealand’s most commonly found ant species. They can form large colonies, building nests under stones or rotting logs which are be maintained by thousands of workers. They’re generalist foragers; they will predate on other small insects, eat seeds or dead material, and will “milk” the honeydew secreted by mealybugs.

Huberia striata also occurs throughout New Zealand but is probably most common in the beech forests of the South Island. They can have a variety of other insects living in their colonies including mealy bugs, scale insects and aphids which the ants will tend to in exchange for a sweet syrup which these insects excrete. Another endemic ant (Discothyrea antarctica) will sometimes be found in their nests, feeding on the mites which parasitise H. striata workers.

Pachycondyla castaneicolor is commonly found in gardens in the North Island and upper South Island, building nests in the soil under logs and rocks. Their nests are smaller than some other ants, with tens of workers rather than hundreds. Be careful not to disturb their nests as they are known to sting when defending themselves!




Harris, R & Ward, D. (2012). Huberia striata (Fr. Smith 1876). Retrieved http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/factsheets/Factsheets/huberia-striata

Harris, R & Ward, D. (2012). Monomorium antarcticum (Fr. Smith 1858). Retrieved http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/factsheets/Factsheets/monomorium-antarcticum

Harris, R & Ward, D. (2012).  Pachycondyla castaneicolor (Dalla Torre, 1893). Retrieved http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/factsheets/Factsheets/pachycondyla-castaneicolor

Wang, X. H., Lester, P. J. (2004) A preliminary study of the usefulness of morphometric tools for splitting the Monomorium antarcticum (Smith) complex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), New Zealand’s most common native ants. New Zealand Entomologist, 27: 103-108.