Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by Leeds Discovery Centre

This resource was created by Milo Phillips – Assistant Curator of Entomology at Leeds Museums and Galleries. It is suitable for Key Stages 2 to 3, aims to develop knowledge and understanding of what goes into making a species ‘social’ and why they exist at all. Additional animated resources illustrate how a hive/colony functions, introduces a variety of ‘social’ species and supports learning about the differences within insects, how we classify animals, and their importance to the environment.


Curriculum Links

The resource covers the following areas of the Science curriculum:

  • KS2 Science – Living things and their habitats; Life cycles; Evolution and adaptation; how we classify animals
  • KS3 Science – Relationships in an ecosystem; Variations between species; Pollinators and their ecological importance; Genetics and Inheritance

Aims of Resource

To give a brief and straightforward introduction to the world of social insects, looking at how we decide if something is ‘eusocial’ and the wider importance of this knowledge.


Learning Objectives

  • Knowledge of one of the fundamental divisions within insect species
  • Understanding of how we define such groupings and why the social/solitary distinction exists
  • Skills to critically evaluate classification of animals using established criteria

Discussion Points

  • Can you think of any animals that we might consider eusocial? What about solitary ones?
  • Do you think humans are eusocial?
  • Can you think of any animals that work together to achieve goals?
  • Knowing what ‘eusocial’ means now, do you still think humans are eusocial?
  • Why might a pack of wolves or other animals that live and hunt together not be thought of as eusocial?

Activity Ideas

  • Design your own social species – list all the different roles you think your hive or colony would need to make sure your species can survive and thrive.
    Then compare these lists to the roles within bee hives and ant colonies.


Brood - (In insects) the offspring produced by the queen of a hive or colony when in their juvenile/larval stages of life.

Castes - Found in some social insects, classes of physically distinct individuals with a particular function in the society.

Ecosystem - A biological community living organisms (plants, animals and microbes) in a particular area. These living parts are all connected through nutrient cycles and energy flows (like food chains).

Ecosystem engineers - Any organism that creates, destroys or significantly changes a habitat.

Eusocial - Animals (especially insects) showing an advanced level of social organization, in which a single female or caste produces the offspring and non-reproductive individuals cooperate in caring for the young.

Life-history strategies - The age and stage specific patterns and timing of events that make up an organisms life. Such as juvenile development, metamorphosis, offspring-number, parental care methods to name a few.

Reproductive fitness - Describes individual reproductive success, or the average genetic contribution to the following generation made by an individual.