social insect


Definition of social insect

: an insect (such as a termite or bee) that lives in a colony or community with other individuals of the same species … a number of other entomologists prefer to view ant colonies and the societies of other social insects as more like superorganisms than communities of individualized organisms.— Robert L. O'Connell The evolution of worker behavior in the social insects is usually explained by kin selection: although workers do not produce offspring, they do reproduce their genes by aiding the reproduction of relatives.— David C. Queller et al.

Examples of social insect in a Sentence

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That’s unusual because social insects like ants usually have something called social immunity: Sick members get kicked out of the group to prevent the rest from getting sick too. Jennifer Lu, National Geographic, "How a parasitic fungus turns ants into 'zombies'," 18 Apr. 2019 The increased efficiency of this division of labor helps us intuitively understand how the caste system of social insects, in which the queen completely takes over the egg laying and the workers handle caretaking, could have evolved. Quanta Magazine, "How Equality and Inequality Shape the Birds and the Bees," 17 Oct. 2018 The paradox in question is the altruistic behavior exhibited most famously by social insects. Jordana Cepelewicz, Scientific American, "The Elusive Calculus of Insect Altruism," 26 Apr. 2018 Although the haplodiploidy hypothesis was debunked, researchers have continued to draw on relatedness and Hamilton’s rule as explanations for eusociality among the social insects. Jordana Cepelewicz, Scientific American, "The Elusive Calculus of Insect Altruism," 26 Apr. 2018 The social insects that once guarded the music have now become it: a sign that Mr. King has stumbled deep into the dark hive, the elemental matrix of music. Evan Eisenberg, WSJ, "‘Lament From Epirus’ Review: Ode on a Grecian Yearn," 24 May 2018 Researchers hope to conduct further investigations, but for now, the study offers a glimpse into the complicated workings of social insect colonies. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "These Ants Give Life-Saving Treatment to Injured Nest-Mates," 15 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'social insect.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of social insect

1847, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

28 Jun 2019

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The first known use of social insect was in 1847

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appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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