The world is an icy wasteland, populated only with dark fungi burrowing through the irradiated earth. The last plant life in this desert is cultivated in great cities of ants and honeybees. A few other, less sapient insect species live alongside them, mostly termites and other eusocials. While they can be physically protected by making alliance with the larger sophonts like humans, there is still the issue of defending against the elements

Insects are small, and most species are cold-blooded, which is not very good in an apocalyptic ice age. While trade and agriculture can assuage the need to leave the city in person, this still requires that the city itself must be warm (at least 15°C), rather than the 0°C that is usual outside. As this is a constant cold, the heating must work continuously. The city should also have warmer areas with a temperature around 35°C for the sake of productivity and comfort. The insects should be able to set up this heating themselves, and ideally should be able to synthesise the materials without the need for outside help

Given these requirements, is there any way for these insects to defend against the cold?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Given the number of ways intelligent humans can defend ourselves against the cold what makes you think there would be a definitive answer to this question for insects. VTC too many valid answers. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 23:31
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings The number of ways intelligent humans have to raise an entire cities' temperature by over 15°C is, as far as I can tell, zero. And we have a lot more technology to work with, as well as a much different size scale to work on $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ Seems like you're brainstorming. Brainstorming, and idea generation are also not permitted on this site. Please stop asking questions that run against site policy. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 23:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ And an intelligent species won't have fire because? .. even we were able to manage that one as far back as the stone age 🤔 possibly before .. maybe ask yourself how else do we deal with cold? and then just pick one or more options that seem suitable to you. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ what about underfloor heating, powered by a fusion reactor? you didn't set any constraints on tech level, after all. $\endgroup$
    – ths
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 0:10

2 Answers 2


There are several factors in their favour

  1. They're underground. This keeps the heat in and cold out. Ground temperature remains fairly constant and the deeper you go, the warmer it is.
  2. They're working. Bees heat their own hives through moving around. Bees can even generate enough body heat to kill hornets. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNroEwFxh6I
  3. If they're composting waste, that generates a lot of heat. Compost can actually get so hot, it catches fire. If the composting chambers were below the city, it would keep the city warm. No technology needed.
  • $\begingroup$ Massive wax walls $\endgroup$
    – user86462
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 3:51

/The last plant life in this desert is cultivated in great cities of ants and honeybees./

Plants need light.

Somehow your insects are either making light, or allowing light from outside through a transplarent barrier in to a warmer inside area. If this is light from their star, they can use that to heat their hothouses and dwelling spaces using solar concentrators. If this is artificial light then they can use that power source to produce artificial heat.


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