Antioxidant enzymes perform a variety of vital functions including the reduction of life-shortening oxidative damage. We used the honey bee genome sequence to identify the major components of the honey bee antioxidant system. A comparative analysis of honey bee with Drosophila melanogaster and Anopheles gambiae shows that although the basic components of the antioxidant system are conserved, there are important species differences in the number of paralogs. These include the duplication of thioredoxin reductase and the expansion of the thioredoxin family in fly; lack of expansion of the Theta, Delta and Omega GST classes in bee and no expansion of the Sigma class in dipteran species. The differential expansion of antioxidant gene families among honey bees and dipteran species might reflect the marked differences in life history and ecological niches between social and solitary species.