Eusocial organisms are characterized by cooperative brood care, generation overlap and reproductive division of labour. Traits associated with eusociality are most developed in ants, termites, paper wasps and corbiculate bees; the fossil record indicates that each of these advanced eusocial taxa evolved in the Late Cretaceous or earlier (greater than 65 Myr ago). Halictid bees also include a large and diverse number of eusocial members, but, in contrast to advanced eusocial taxa, they are characterized by substantial intra- and inter-specific variation in social behaviour, which may be indicative of more recent eusocial evolution. To test this hypothesis, we used over 2400 bp of DNA sequence data gathered from three protein-coding nuclear genes (opsin, wingless and EF-1a) to infer the phylogeny of eusocial halictid lineages and their relatives. Results from relaxed molecular clock dating techniques that utilize a combination of molecular and fossil data indicate that the three independent origins of eusociality in halictid bees occurred within a narrow time frame between approximately 20 and 22 Myr ago. This relatively recent evolution helps to explain the pronounced levels of social variation observed within these bees. The three origins of eusociality appear to be temporally correlated with a period of global warming, suggesting that climate may have had an important role in the evolution and maintenance of eusociality in these bees.