Symbiotic interactions with bacteria are essential for the survival and reproduction of many insects. The European beewolf (Philanthus triangulum, Hymenoptera, Crabronidae) engages in a highly specific association with bacteria of the genus Streptomyces that appears to protect beewolf offspring against infection by pathogens. Using transmission and scanning electron microscopy, the bacteria were located in the antennal glands of female wasps, where they form dense cell clusters. Using genetic methods, closely related streptomycetes were found in the antennae of 27 Philanthus species (including two subspecies of P. triangulum from distant localities). In contrast, no endosymbionts could be detected in the antennae of other genera within the subfamily Philanthinae (Aphilanthops, Clypeadon and Cerceris). On the basis of morphological, genetic and ecological data, ‘Candidatus Streptomyces philanthi’ is proposed. 16S rRNA gene sequence data are provided for 28 ecotypes of ‘Candidatus Streptomyces philanthi’ that reside in different host species and subspecies of the genus Philanthus. Primers for the selective amplification of ‘Candidatus Streptomyces philanthi’ and an oligonucleotide probe for specific detection by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) are described.