The concept

Protection of the superorganism

Social insect colonies are „superorganisms”. Like cells in a body, the different insects specialize on different tasks: queens and males reproduce, whilst the workers are typically sterile and perform colony maintenance tasks. Social immunity describes how the colonies as reproductive entities are protected from disease.

Read more on the emergence and evolution of social immunity and its parallels to the immune system of multicellular organisms:


Review Article
Cremer S
(2019) Social immunity in insects
Current Biology
Review Article
Cremer S, Pull CD, Fürst MA
(2018) Social immunity: emergence and evolution of colony-level disease protection
Annual Reviews of Entomology
Review Article
Cremer S, Sixt M
(2009) Analogies in the evolution of individual and social immunity
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Review Article
Cremer S, Armitage SAO, Schmid-Hempel P
(2007) Social immunity
Current Biology

The concept

Sanitary care

Nest hygiene

Treating infection

Social immunisation

Organisational immunity