Are there specific writing ways to differentiate from the two (eusocial vs. hivemind)?

I would like to start writing more notes and lore upon something I've been working with, but it does seem hard to not give each creature a specific individual personality and/or mindset.

If it helps, here's a few short notes upon what I'm trying to deal with: A giant collective, the Contagion, which spawns from a elder deity as a biological reset onto a system if a species' empire becomes too great or too cocky. The Contagion sends messages among itself similar to fungi and plants sending warnings signals through stimulus, using pheromones like animals, and telepathy among the more intelligent variants. They are headed by a single individual called a Herald, who also receives order from the higher deity.

(hope the tags are okay!)

  • $\begingroup$ Is your hypothetical creature a hive mind or a eusocial organism? $\endgroup$ – nick012000 Aug 18 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE Lokii, glad you found us. Please check out our tour and help center. Your tags look okay to me but you might want to add to them. There is a hive tag which works if your creatures are insects. There's also insects for actual insects and insectoid for insect-like creatures. I don't think creature-design fits, though it might (it would be great for when you get more into biological design). $\endgroup$ – Cyn Aug 18 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ @nick012000 these hypothetical creatures are supposed to be hive minded, rather than eusocial! I just want to know how to properly write, within a story, them being hive minded. $\endgroup$ – Lokii Aug 18 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Cyn thank you for the tips! These creatures are more like amalgamations or mutants, and take inspirations from earthly insects, though. $\endgroup$ – Lokii Aug 18 at 22:36

The different bodies of a hivemind are constantly connected - since it's supposed to be ONE mind controlling all these bodies.

An eusocial species has members that work together, but think (or act on instinct) on their own.


Euscocial organisms follows these rules three:

  • Reproductive division of labor (with or without sterile castes), in other word, specialized groups of the species are responsible for one task, usually to the exclusion of all others. For instance worker castes can't give reproduce (generally), or the reproducing caste can't do work like burrowing or building,
  • Overlapping generations, a colony can contain a mother and her offspring at the same time, and
  • Cooperative care of young, in other words, everyone pitches in to help the kids.

Also, final point, eusocial species are always beyond the point of no return, they have no mechanism to return to the pre-eusocial state.


A quick Google search told me hivemind includes ant colonies, but can also refer to the collective consciousnesses of groups of humans, swarm intelligences (either the computer variant or the biological one), and a few others like the Mind Flayer from Stranger Things. This is non-helpful, but it told me that hivemind is just a loose word that people like using and has no rigorous definition.

So, to summarize, eusocial organisms are real, hive mind is a jargon word which can means many things and has no rigorous definition. Thus, if it meets the rules three and is past the point of no return, it is eusocial, otherwise in can be labeled hivemind.

  • $\begingroup$ With hiveminds, as far as perhaps fantasy or sci-fi definitions, are typically headed by a single individual who controls all aspects of the others (such as the Tao Tei in the Great Wall or the Arachnids in Starship Troopers). What I'm making follows just that (being sci-fi definition). Does that help point what I was asking in a different direction? $\endgroup$ – Lokii Aug 18 at 22:53
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    $\begingroup$ A hive mind isn't controlled by a single individual. A hive mind is where all the individuals together make up the mind such as the Borg in Star Trek. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Aug 18 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Thorne Borg Queen. Yes, I know, Voyager, but it’s still canon. $\endgroup$ – nick012000 Aug 19 at 0:11

Well, the first way to distinguish them is that a hive mind is a mind. So anything mindless is clearly not a hive mind. For example, ants are eusocial insects, but as far as we know, have no mind, whether hive or other.

Let's keep with the ants and imagine an advanced ant species that evolves a mind. This can happen in two ways: On one hand, every ant by itself might develop a mind. Then this would not be a hive mind; those insects would be eusocial organisms with an individual mind. Each insect would experience itself as an individual entity. If you hurt an ant, only that ant would feel the pain. An eusocial species with individual minds would likely form something like a fascist society: There are individuals, but they only matter as part of the collective.

On the other hand, one could imagine that the ant colony as a whole would develop a mind, just as our body as a whole developed a mind, not the cells individually. In that case, the ant colony would be the person, it might not even be aware of the individual ants, and if it is, it would consider the ants just as part of its body. Unlike our body, its body would not be connected, but the colony would still consider the ant collective as a whole as its body, just like we don't consider our limbs or our eyes as separate beings. This is a hive mind: A single mind that spans the whole colony, rather than being an individual property of single ants. Note that with a pure hive mind colony, the ant would not have a mind on its own, just as our neurons have no mind on their own.

Of course there might be a continuum between the extremes, just like there's a continuum on the social behaviour of animals. One might e.g. think of a sort of hive mind that can split into individual minds and reunite. Or one might think of individual minds with telepathic contact that goes beyond mere communication, so that they may have literally shared thoughts. Or there might be both a hive mind and individual minds which interact with each other.


I'm going to be Very Basic with what I'm saying, but I believe "hivemind" is just a spiffier way of saying "eusocial". Ants, bees, wasps, termites—they're all eusocial. The word "hivemind" is literally a compounding of "hive" and "mind" in order to refer to the phenomenon observable in these insects' colonies (the highest level of organization of sociality) with a word whose meaning is easier to deduct for us laymen.

Comparatively, you need to know a bit about linguistics to know what "eusocial" means at a first read. "Eu" is a very popular Greek suffix that you can find in plenty of words (e.g.: euthanasia, eugenics, euphemism). It means "good". So with "eusocial", we're basically saying, "Hey, these little bugs got it all figured out, socially speaking."

Of course, with "hivemind" cropping up in fantasy and science-fiction far more often than "eusocial", it has become a term associated with psionics and telepathy. Then again, we still don't understand how ants and bees and all those wonderful little colony-living bugs really manage to communicate so flawlessly, so eusociality in its own right is a bit of an esoteric concept!

I would suggest you don't angst over whatever difference there may be between these words. For all intents and purposes, they're synonyms.


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