social insect

noun

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

Recent Examples on the Web Most social insect colonies have complex systems for dividing up tasks. Michael Schulson, Wired, "What Can Ants and Bees Teach Us About Containing Disease?," 1 Aug. 2020 The paradox in question is the altruistic behavior exhibited most famously by social insects. Quanta Magazine, "The Elusive Calculus of Insects’ Altruism and Kin Selection," 10 Apr. 2018 The paradox in question is the altruistic behavior exhibited most famously by social insects. Quanta Magazine, "The Elusive Calculus of Insects’ Altruism and Kin Selection," 10 Apr. 2018 More bees landed and then more, until the log hummed with tens of thousands of the wild, social insects. National Geographic, "Photos from inside a tree reveal intimate lives of wild honeybees," 8 Feb. 2020 Ants may be tiny critters with tiny brains, but these social insects are capable of collectively organizing themselves into a highly efficient community to ensure the colony survives. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Divided, we fall: How ant behavior mimics political polarization," 19 Feb. 2020 Compared to those non-social insects, honeybees have many more genes involved in smell, specifically the molecular receptors that recognize chemical pheromones. Quanta Magazine, "In Bees, a Hunt for Roots of Social Behavior," 6 May 2014 Bees are social insects, which gives microbes the opportunity to be transferred from animal to animal. Quanta Magazine, "An Explorer of Life’s Deepest Partnerships," 17 Sep. 2015 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

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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The first known use of social insect was in 1847

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Statistics for social insect

Last Updated

4 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Social insect.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20insect. Accessed 10 Aug. 2020.

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