By RazzaTazz 11 Comments
I have just started reading a short Superman story arc featuring the return of the Insect Queen. For those who are unaware in the silver age Lana had a ring which allowed her to simulate the abilities of certain insects and she used this to join the Legion of Super Heroes. This is a reimagined version where she is abducted by an insectoid alien species. One specific panel interested me though where Superman is being attacked by wave upon wave of insectoids. If insects ever actually attack humans as a group they would have a huge advantage. It has recently been estimated that there are between 8 and 9 million species of animal on Earth, and insects are said to represent up to 90% of that figure. In terms of their actually biomass it is hard to estimate because of their large and indefinite numbers, but an estimate says that for every pound of humans on the earth there is 200 pounds of insects. So yes we are outnumbered.
Insects lack intelligence though right? Well yes and no. An individual insect is not very intelligent, and what is has in terms of a brain is quite limited. In terms of group intelligence though insects have been shown to exhibit incredible complexity. Group intelligence (or swarm intelligence) is when a group of individuals gather together and the combined intelligence allows the group to operate on a higher level. In terms of humans out group intelligence is what we would call civilizations or culture. In terms of insects with their limited brain power the next step up is one almost of cognition. Of course comparing animal intelligence to human intelligence is never easy because of different goals of intelligence but there are some remarkable occurrences. For instance in certain ant colonies if an ant is busy with a task and gets killed, another ant will replace it in its task without any other prodding or instruction, almost as though the entire colony has a shared consciousness of what is going on. Termite mounds which can reach up to 9 meters are comparable in size to a skyscraper to us humans, and just like us they built in temperature control (in this case it is not as much for comfort though, rather that they need to keep the temperature correct for fungus growing). Bees also show a high degree of group intelligence and with their dances can identify the location of pollen some distances away.
In terms of fiction in general and comics specifically, insects are maybe a little underused and underappreciated. There would be a lot of moments as in Starship Troopers where the human scientists discover the insect alien have intelligence as opposed to just thinking they are brainless. I thus found this miniseries and this specific panel pretty interesting and maybe as something more accurate to what the natural kingdom represents.