The aculeates, or stinging insects, are a monophyletic group of the insect order Hymenoptera amounting to about 68,000 known species worldwide. Their outstanding feature they share is the evolutionary transformation of the female ovipositor and its associated glands into a specialized organ for injecting poison - the venom apparatus - the hard, mechanical parts of which form the stinger. The original function of the venom apparatus was to paralyze prey, but in some lineages it has taken on a defensive function. It is this latter aspect that is well known to farmers, gardeners and naturalists.
Several lineages of stinging insects are social, living in durable, structured groups, often of considerable size. These are the social wasps, social bees and ants. Until recently, it was considered that true sociality had evolved in only one other group of insects, the termites (order Isoptera). Even now, with sociality known in at least two additional orders, it is apparent that the bulk of independent origins are within the aculeate hymenoptera, a group comprising only an estimated 6.5% of living insect species.
For a comprehensive listing of the stinging insects in Trinidad and Tobago, please click here.
Starr, C.K. & A.W. Hook. 2003. The aculeate hymenoptera of Trinidad, West Indies. Occasional Papers of the Department of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies (12):1-31.