One of if not the most important factor to our survival, it allows us to feed the very animals that we eat and in general it allows us to survive.

But could insects learn or evolve to develop agriculture?

As seen today there are a few insects that have been able to do something similar, such as ants and bees, with some ant species using leaves to grow fungus to nourish the colony or bees being able to pollinate plants by collecting spores and releasing them to pollinate other plants.

Needs or requirements:

  1. Needs to be able to use simple agriculture, like making crops and using water.
  2. Must be a communal insect.
  3. Insects must be either primarily herbivorous or omnivorous.
  4. Can use basic items or tools such as sticks or rocks ( will be asked in part 2 ).
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ No to the last one. Insects are more likely to develop special drones for the job than would be able to develop the ability to use tools. Tools, in general, seem to be for intelligent species, and while hiveminds have a decent intelligence, but not in that sense. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 4:50
  • $\begingroup$ There's an enormous difference between biological adaptation (evolution that develops other species through natural selection) and cultural adaptation (that humans do). Ants didn't choose one day to try cultivating fungus - we are seeing the result of perhaps 50 million years of natural selection and symbiotic relationships. Humans did choose to colonize the Arctic, and adapted to a radically different environment, culture, and food supply in a comparative blink of the eye. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 5:55

1 Answer 1


Ants already do this with Aphids

Ants already conduct their own animal husbandry with aphids, using them pretty much as dairy cattle. There is some compelling evidence to show that this is instinctual behaviour though as their control over the aphids is chemical in nature rather than a learned behaviour.

There was a science fiction writer whose works I read about 30 years ago - Clifford Symak. I'm not sure the name of the book in which postulated the theory, but basically he had a person propose the idea that ants lose all their knowledge over winter because much of their colony dies off. He then protects a single colony over several winters, puts out very small carts and tools for them to learn about, and without spoiling the end of that story, the ants thrive. The idea is that individual ants are small and have simple brains that are not capable of individual intelligence, but that a single colony has enough complexity in it to develop a collective intelligence that could learn over time if uninterrupted.

To be clear, I don't think that can happen. But, given that there are already some farming behaviours going on in the insect world, it is possible that these could be built upon. If it happens though, it would happen through an emergent collective intelligence, not a race of individually sentient insects.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Some ants farm mould as well. $\endgroup$
    – Pliny
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 16:29

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