The only bees native to the Hawaiian Islands form a single clade of 60 species in the genus Hylaeus. The group is understudied and relatively poorly known. A data set consisting of 1201 base pairs of the mitochondrial genes cytochrome oxidase I and II and tRNA-Leucine, and 14 morphological characters was used to construct a phylogenetic tree for 48 of the 60 known species. Genetic variation was high, including amino acid changes, and a number of species showed evidence of heteroplasmy. Tree support was low due to high levels of homoplasy. Biogeographical analysis using DIVA indicates that early radiation took place on the island of Hawaii. This places an upper age limit of only 0.4–0.7 Myr for the group, an unusually short time for such a large radiation. Moreover, it is an unusual biogeographical pattern among the Hawaiian biota. © The Willi Hennig Society 2006.