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What Do We Mean By ‘Social’?

Insects are the most diverse group of animals we know of, with over 900,000 species discovered so far (more than any other type of animal).

Their habitats, behaviours and ways of living are equally diverse, but scientists can group them, broadly, into two main categories:

  1. ‘Solitary’ – being insects that live mostly on their own
  2. ‘Social’ – being insects that live in large family groups, in hives or colonies.

European mantis
European Mantis

A praying mantis (above) is a solitary insect, while the honey bees (below) are eusocial, living in a hive together.

Bee hive
Bee Hive

The word we use to describe this second group is ‘eusocial’, which means ‘truly social’. For a species to be considered eusocial, it must meet some important conditions first.

We use ‘eusocial’ to describe animals that cooperate and work together in ways that benefit the group as a whole but might not benefit the individuals themselves right away, i.e. their actions are not for direct, individual gain.