; order Hymenoptera, suborder Apocrita)
Family of insects in which the petiole is composed of one or two narrow segments. All the known species are social. Males and females are usually alate. After the nuptial flight, inseminated females shed their wings and found colonies by laying eggs and rearing larvae, often using the reserves in the now useless wing muscles. The female worker caste is always wingless, usually sterile, and often shows polyethism. Some species are dulotic (see dulosis). Most species are scavengers of animal remains; others are seed-eaters, active predators, or fungus feeders. Many species obtain honeydew from Homoptera. Nest sites range from cavities in wood or soil to carton or leaf constructions. Some species are symbiotic with plants. About 8000 species have been described, but the total number is probably around 13 000 species.
Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.