Social Insects Lesson for Kids: Types, Definition & Examples

Instructor: Lindsy Frazer

Dr. Frazer has taught several college level Science courses and has a master's degree in Human Biology and a PhD in Library and Information Science.

Some bugs use teamwork to survive. You might call these insects buddy bugs, but scientists call them social insects! Learn about some different types of social insects and how they live and work together in this lesson.

Social Insects

Imagine you're at a picnic. Just as you bite into your sandwich, a piece of bread falls to the ground. Within minutes, a line of ants marches towards the crumbs and gets to work. To move big crumbs, ants work together as a team. These ants are called social insects because they use teamwork to build a home, find food and raise young insects.

Types of Social Insects

Because they live and work so closely together, ants are considered eusocial, or totally social insects. But not all insects are as cooperative or interactive as ants; they can vary according to their level of sociability.

Eusocial Insects

To be considered totally social or eusocial like ants, an insect group must have these three characteristics:

1.) They must live together in a large group made up of different generations, or ages, including babies, parents and grandparents.

2.) All of the adult insects in the group must help take care of all of the babies in the group, even if they aren't their parents.

3.) The group must have a division of labor, which means the insects in the group have different jobs, and only some of them have the job of becoming a parent. For example, worker ants build the anthill, search for food and help protect their ant community, while queen ants lay eggs and care for young ants.

Presocial Insects

Insects that interact but do not have all three of the characteristics of eusocial insects are called presocial, or subsocial. Presocial insects might share a home or nest but not help each other care for their children or have a division of labor. For example, some female mining bees build and share a nest in the ground, but each mining bee cares for her own babies. Living together means they can help each other protect their home, but these bees are more like roommates than friends or co-workers.

Solitary

If an insect does not have any eusocial traits, it's considered a solitary insect. Solitary insects like to be alone; they live on their own and usually don't interact with other insects.

Grasshoppers are solitary insects that spend most of their lives alone. They only interact with other grasshoppers to mate, or get together to make eggs.

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