The antennae, usually bottle-brush shaped (plumose) in the male sex, are less hairy in the female.
The bees which make up this group agree with the Sphecoidea in the short pronotum, but may be distinguished from all other Hymenoptera by the widened first tarsal segment and the plumose hairs on head and body.
- First segment of hind-body footless, bearing the orifices of the genital organs (in the male unsymmetrically placed); last foot of the fore-body in the male a copulatory organ; neither, or only one, of the first pair of antennae in the male geniculating; cephalic limbs abundantly articulated and provided with many plumose setae; heart generally present.
- The first segment of the hind-body almost always with rudimentary pair of feet; orifices of the genital organs (symmetrically placed in both sexes) in the following segment; neither the last foot of the fore-body nor the rudimentary feet just mentioned acting as a copulatory organ in the male; both or neither of the first pair of antennae in the male geniculating; cephalic limbs less abundantly articulated and with fewer plumose setae or none, but with hooks and clasping setae.
On either side is attached a dorsolateral and ventro-lateral appendage, each with a fan-like plumose termination consisting of compound hairs or setae, found elsewhere only among arthropods (q.v.); each of these is moved by muscles running upwards towards the neck and arising immediately under the trochal disk, the inferior ventro-lateral pair also presenting muscles which form a girdle in the hind region of the body.
Thus, when acting as swimming organs, the appendages, or their rami, are more or less flattened, or oar-like, and often have the margins fringed with long plumose hairs.
The very remarkable plumose seeds described by Renault under the name Gnetopsis are of uncertain affinity, but have much in common with Lagenostoma, the seed of Lyginodendron.