We analyzed the higher level phylogeny of the bee family Halictidae based on the coding regions of three single-copy nuclear genes (long-wavelength [LW] opsin, wingless, and elongation factor 1-alpha [EF-1 alpha]). Our combined data set consisted of 2,234 aligned nucleotide sites (702 base pairs [bp] for LW opsin, 405 bp for wingless, and 1,127 bp for EF-1 alpha) and 779 parsimony-informative sites. We included 58 species of halictid bees from 33 genera, representing all subfamilies and tribes, and rooted the trees using seven outgroups from other bee families: Colletidae, Andrenidae, Melittidae, and Apidae. We analyzed the separate and combined data sets by a variety of methods, including equal weights parsimony, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian methods. Analysis of the combined data set produced a strong phylogenetic signal with high bootstrap and Bremer support and high posterior probability well into the base of the tree. The phylogeny recovered the monophyly of the Halictidae and of all four subfamilies and both tribes, recovered relationships among the subfamilies and tribes congruent with morphology, and provided robust support for the relationships among the numerous genera in the tribe Halictini, sensu Michener (2000). Using our combined nucleotide data set, several recently described halictid fossils from the Oligocene and Eocene, and recently developed Bayesian methods, we estimated the antiquity of major clades within the family. Our results indicate that each of the four subfamilies arose well before the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary and suggest that the early radiation of halictid bees involved substantial African-South American interchange roughly coincident with the separation of these two continents in the late Cretaceous. This combination of single-copy nuclear genes is capable of recovering Cretaceous-age divergences in bees with high levels of support. We propose that LW opsin, wingless, and EF-1 alpha(F2 copy) may be useful in resolving relationships among bee families and other Cretaceous-age insect lineages.