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

Recent Examples on the Web Blues are quite social insects, and they can often be found roosting quite close together—or even on the same grass or flower. Alan Taylor, The Atlantic, 14 Mar. 2024 In the years since, the ideas developed for human warfare have been adapted to apply to non-human combatants, most notably social insects, which can mobilize large forces when engaging in combat. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 29 Aug. 2023 And then there are sloth bears, which mostly eat social insects. Kate Wong, Scientific American, 4 Oct. 2023 When complex phenomena arise from simple rules distributed throughout a large population—as can be seen best in social insects and slime molds—modern humans tend to be puzzled. Alan Jacobs, Harper's Magazine, 9 Nov. 2022 One explanation, says Parker, could be the practice of age polyethism found in social insect colonies. Nathaniel Scharping, Discover Magazine, 5 Feb. 2016 Most social insect colonies have complex systems for dividing up tasks. Michael Schulson, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 July 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'social insect.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1847, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of social insect was in 1847

Dictionary Entries Near social insect

Cite this Entry

“Social insect.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jun. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!