Often, you will find a Latin name used in descriptions of animals or plants. The name usually contains two words, and is usually italicized, looking something like Apis cerana, Xylocopa latipes or Parapolybia varia, to name just a few. This name is usually italicised and may seem quite foreign to anyone who does not specialise in science.
The scientific name is derived from Latin or Latinized Greek. A certain species may have many different common names, used throughout its range, but each individual species can only have one valid scientific name. This is the main reason why I use scientific names throughout this site, and information on common names in various countries is provided only for reference.
To elaborate further, all living things are divided into groups known as kingdom, phyllum, class, order, family, genus and species. All animals are grouped into kingdom Animalia (animals). Insects are part of the phyllum Arthropoda (invertebrate animals with jointed legs), and form the class Insecta. All bees, wasps and ants are part of the order Hymenoptera. The stinging bees and wasps covered on this site can be further grouped into the sub-order Apocrita (types with a distinct petiole (“waist) joining thorax and abdomen), group Aculeata (types with the egg-laying tube modified into a venomous stinging apparatus). Thus, the bees and wasps in this group are often referred to as the Aculeate Hymenoptera or simply the Aculeates. This site mainly covers the following families:
Families are often grouped within a superfamily. For instance, all bees along with the "Sphecoid wasps" (this term is derived from the time when these wasps were classified in the now-defunct superfamily Sphecoidea) are grouped into the superfamily Apoidea. A family can in turn be divided into sub-families. Often, different families are found (through scientific methods such as cladistic and DNA analysis) to be closely related enough to group into various sub-families under a single family. On the other hand, there are times when sub-families are found to be distinct enough to be raised to family status. I have attempted to give the most up-to-date and accurate grouping, but I am not a taxonomist and may not know of recent changes or the general agreement in the taxonomic world, so please pardon any mistakes I may make.
Members of different sub-families have enough features in common to be grouped in the same family, but can still be distinctly different. For instance, the potter wasps are solitary but are included in the family Vespidae due to similarities in morphology (body structure) with the social wasps. They are in their own sub-family, the Eumeninae. Species in a sub-family are often grouped into tribes - the use of tribes varies across different families and sub-families. A genus (plural genera) comprises of a group of closely related species. The species is generally the final unit in taxonomic terms, describing each individual type. However, sometimes species are further split into sub-species, which are usually simply different in colour or size in different regions (different geographical variants). Many authors contend that the use of subspecies is not valid in a proper classification system, though many species are still grouped as such till their complicated taxonomy can be resolved, eventually proving them to be either geographical variants or distinct species.