In this world Humanity was wiped out, all that remains are several small groups of genetically altered human chimeras. These new "humans" have a genetic cast structure similar to that of hive insects where 70% of all children born are infertile females (think worker bees), 20% are fertile males (think drones), and 10% are born as fertile females. The fertile females are capable of releasing hormones that allow them control over the infertile females and fertile males (think honey bee queens).

Since each village or colony will only have one or two queens, each queen would have to be capable of producing many more children than regular human women do. I have increased the birth rate by saying that they are genetically altered to have a much higher egg count and therefore have menopause at a much later date and can have children up to their old age. However, I'm not sure this will be enough to keep the colonies' population going.

What other alterations to the human genetic code could I add to the queens?

Ideally, I want a colony of a 100 people to be supported by only two, maybe three, queens.

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    $\begingroup$ I hate these "solution looking for a problem" style questions...Why would such a situation even occur? $\endgroup$
    – Aron
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ Much easier to understand. I made a few additional tweaks, as well. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 2:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre thank you, I really appreciate your help. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 3:20
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    $\begingroup$ artificial cloning and artificial womb will save the universe. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ Current replacement is 2.1 children per woman, so under your scenario 1 fertile woman would be doing the breeding of 5, so 10.5 kids per fertile woman. Well within what humans have shown themselves able to do without any additional mutations. $\endgroup$
    – jmoreno
    Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 18:18

8 Answers 8


Look at a queen termite compared with a regular individual. Imagine the worker is a normal human size. That makes the queen a sprawling snake of abdomen that fills the room! She would be immobile, and have workers feeding predigested pap on one end (she could not digest enough food on her own) and removing waste on the other. The extended abdomen would hold rows of wombs in various stages of gestation.

Horrific and monstrous for a story, for certain, especially if the hero finds out at the end and that his fate is to mate and be eaten. But not at all realistic for a creature our size.

If you want a more modest number of offspring, you can increase the lifespan of the lifeform. The worker population can be built up slowly, and seldom need to be replaced because the workers live long, too.

Each queen can have multiple pregnancies at once, but similarly to what human women can do in real life, like twins or triplets. If the workers could be born earlier and then be cared for by others, not only does it make multple births more practical but it shortens the time needed for each litter.

For example, if a queen produced 4 workers every 10 months (7 for gestation and 3 to rest between) for 100 years, 120 batches of 4 is 480 workers.

Note that this is also a limit on the kingdom size! The workers have a limited lifespan too, due to age and accident. If the lifespan is the same for workers and queens, then the replacement queen will replace workers and not add to their number.

Note that this has serious reprocussions for recovering from a disaster or disease. Workers lost early can't be replaced as new births only cover normal loss!

So this doesn't seem like a workable solution. A colony must have a queen that can produce many workers quickly.

  • $\begingroup$ an ant colony has to do produce thousands and even Millions of children with only one Queen. These colonies I have to produce 100 children over one lifetime with three Queens surely there's a way to make this work. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 2:23
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    $\begingroup$ Well, 100 in a lifetime isn't that bad, if she lives 300 years and heels perfectly. I thought you were describing a colony of thousands. Certainly the birth rate is reduced if the worker lifetime is longer. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 2:27
  • $\begingroup$ increased lifespans that is a very good idea. Are you going to put that in your answer? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 2:51
  • $\begingroup$ I'll rework the answer tomorrow. Hopefully the question will be in better shape and I won't go down the wrong path. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 3:43
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    $\begingroup$ That is horrific o.O $\endgroup$
    – Mirror318
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 3:52

Let's establish some things:

You say they can bear children when they are older, so lets say they have children from 20 to 60 years old, a 40 year production time per queen.

Let's say their menstrual cycle is a lot faster than today's, so the queen could get pregnant any day (or at least any week) of the year.

Here's some ideas:

  1. Faster growth—the mothers pass something to the babies something in the womb that dramatically stimulates cell reproduction/growth. The babies could pop out in 2 months, instead of 9. Women could have 4-5 children in a year. Say 4 per year for 40 years, that's 160 per queen.

  2. Faster output despite lack of growth—currently a baby can't be born prematurely that well (lots of complications). Say in your world they have a way (artificial eggshells or something) to allow the queen to give birth way prematurely, and the baby doesn't die but is cared for outside the womb.

  3. Genetically have twins/triplets a common thing—Some people are genetically predisposed to this: A woman named Mrs Vassilyev supposedly popped out 16 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets and 4 sets of quadruplets in her life, 69 children all up (no single child births at all).

  4. Creepy options—You could massively change the physiology so the queens have multiple wombs, making a kind of gross child factory like the termite queen answer. Or you could make the queen huge, with a giant womb that holds a few dozen babies at once, releasing them seahorse style

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    $\begingroup$ #2 with honeycomb-like hatcheries would have been my answer. $\endgroup$
    – Crissov
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ Banded armadillos have quadruplets for every birth, iirc... just CRIPR that into the human genome... :) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 12:53

There is a real world mammal that has a queen and caste system similar to what you describe: the naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber). BBC wildlife videos about naked mole rats

To turn a human woman into a naked mole rat queen who can have big litters of babies, you need to sort out the human pelvis and/or the human baby. And possibly the human placenta.

Pelvis: birth is difficult and prolonged because of trade-offs between walking bipedally and having a big brained baby. If your queens are practically immobile, and just lie around all day (like a termite queen or naked mole rat queen), then the pelvis architecture can be changed drastically. Wide enough to squirt out the babies without much effort.

Human baby: alternatively, make human babies much smaller and even less well developed than they are now. So instead of an 8 lb baby, the queen has several kitten sized babies (8 x 1 lbs), for the same 9 month pregnancy. The 'factory settings' for the mammals is 8 nipples, and some beasties have 16, so the queen can have multiple babies nursing at once. Or, she passes them over to the infertile females to breast-feed.

Placenta: The human placenta is directly bathed in the mother's blood. This is very efficient in getting nutrients out of mum's blood and into baby's blood (only 3 layers of tissue to pass through). The downside is if something goes wrong, mum can bleed to death. If mum is producing 8 to 16 babies at once, I guess that risk goes up as she has 8 to 16 placentas? So perhaps the human placenta could be re-engineered back to the 'primitive' mammalian state of 6 layers of tissue:

baby's blood - placenta 1 - placenta 2 - placenta 3 - mum 1 - mum 2 - mum 3 - mum's blood.

Much less efficient, so development of the foetuses would be slower.

Meanwhile, menopause. Menoapuse isn't just about egg number, it is about nutrition and how much hormones you have squirreled away in your body fat. The average age for British women hitting menopause is 51 years old whereas subsistence level farmers the average may be as low as 42. So if you feed your queens a high fat diet, they can have a longer reproductive lifespan. (Possibly. Some of this delayed menopause is an ability to still having periods, even though you've run out of eggs.)

How many babies they'll need to have will depend on mortality in your society. If 50% of kids die of childhood diseases or get eaten by bears, the birth rate will need to be high to keep the population stable.



The goal is 100 people. Based on your statistics, there would be 10 queens born (but not necessarily living to maturity), 70 worker females, and 20 males. As a result, after hitting this population level each queen would need to produce 10 children. Call it 15 for proof against statistical anomalies, power struggles, and bad luck. 15 kids has been achieved in the real world, although not (to my knowledge) as part of a sustained society.

Also, that's boring.


Here are some suggestions if you'd like to try for two queens per colony (50 kids per lifetime).

  • Fertility window: Real women can only reproduce a few days a month. Find a way to keep that ovum alive to increase that window, preferably indefinitely.
  • Multiple births: If every pregnancy is twins, you've just doubled your birth rate. However, it's likely riskier for both mother and children.
  • Ova production: My understanding is a real girl is born with all the ova she'll ever have. Tweak that to produce indefinitely, as men do, to get fertility from puberty on. Bonus: splitting one cell into two ova gets you two genetically distinct twins.
  • Anatomy: Childbirth is potentially damaging to both mother and child. Structural changes to the birth canal might make this process less damaging and thus more sustainable.

Make the queen a marsupial. She "births" her children into a marsupial pouch where they can be better protected as they grow, then she has a free womb for impregnation again. She can pass off the older newborns (joeys?) to sterile females for child care as new ones are born. Obviously this would require some significant changes to human fetal development to emphasize the ability to suckle, breathe air, digest milk, prevent infection and excrete waste first, versus the more advanced brain development a human gets prior to birth. But it would allow a human(ish) female to potentially give birth to many more children (and more importantly, a constant stream instead of a large bolus like an octomom situation).

So the embryo gestates in the womb for, say, 3 months, then lives in the pouch for another 3 before being large enough to be cared for by another at 6 months. That would allow a queen to have 4 young a year, an almost 4x increase over normal human women, with almost 150 births over a normal human reproductive life (13 years to 50). This wouldn't require massive changes to how humans develop or retain fertility and could be further boosted with twin deliveries or delaying menopause another decade or so.

On a side note, most queen based insect colonies have the ability to transform a female worker larvae into a queen. How this would work in a marsupial based birth system would be tricky. Loss of a queen would immediately terminate all her young that couldn't survive on their own, presumably it would be too late at that point to "promote" a sterile female worker newborn into becoming a queen via diet (aka "royal jelly") since the sex organs and whatnot would have to be present from a very early embryonic stage. Perhaps a surviving queen could choose to secrete special milk that promotes a female joey into becoming a queen, maybe she normally secretes milk that PREVENTS joeys from becoming a queen (so all embryos could be queens, then they lose that capability via a process that occurs while in the pouch) and that changes if there are no other queens around (kind of how coyote females boost egg release as the pack gets smaller), or when being a queen is just a low incidence mutation that only occurs in 1-2% of births so they kill it if it is not necessary or drive her away at puberty so she can found a colony elsewhere. Point being, the colony is VERY dependent on having an existing queen as it is probably very difficult to produce another one. So either a queenless colony raids/trades for another colony's queen (presumably an immature one) or they start to die off. Perhaps this process is what allows for genetic diversity between colonies (similar to "wife stealing" in many tribal cultures).


Does the queen have to bear the children? Or can she simply do something to make the infertile females fertile? Somehow implant a fertilized egg in them, or somehow cause them to ovulate? That way the queen is in control of reproduction, but isn't required to bear all the children herself. This could wind up being handier, since in case of some disaster that depletes the population, the queen could quickly have multiple children "in the pipeline" as it were.


You don't necessarily need any crazy mutations, lets compare to real life situation:

In Finland there is a religious community where it is not allowed to use any birth control. The average number of children is around 10, having 15 children is not rare and I know families that have 19 children. Restrictions are, they get married around 20 years old and are fertile maybe to 45 yrs.

So lets say a modest approximation one child every other year and change other restrictions. If your queens are required to start reproducing at age 15 and as you say they are fertile longer, lets say to 65, that's 50 years fertile = 25 children per woman.

If you either have always twins or have a child every year, two queens would make next generation 100 people. Since you only want two queens in each generation (if I understood correctly), 100 is more than enough, which allows you to alter the fertile years or amount of twins or how often the children are born, whatever suits you best.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding Boat! Interesting answer. Do you have any sources where one could read more about this specific religious community? 15 to 19 children sounds like a lot. If you haven't done so already please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 12:50
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    $\begingroup$ It appears to be hard to find any exact sources in English, but here is something: The USA wiki site (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laestadianism_in_the_United_States) says: "most families in non-urban congregations have between 4 and 10 children, while most churches have a few families with 12 or 15 children." but there is no source and it seems to include all subgroups all of which don't follow the rule of no birth control, whereas in Finland the conservative group is the largest (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservative_Laestadianism). $\endgroup$
    – Boat
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 14:47

A big dog is the same size as a small human. Dogs have a gestation of 60 days (compared to human 270) and routinely have multiple births. Metabolically and physiologically there is nothing wrong with that for a different big animal: the human.

The reason for long gestation likely has to do with post-birth selective pressure, not needs of mother or fetus during gestation. For humans and other primates there is a huge maternal investment in each child: both before birth but especially afterwards. It is very possible that long gestation has nothing to do with the fetus being gestated but more to do with time between live babies. If you are the only baby you are more likely to get all the mom resources. If you have siblings 3 and 6 months older they will outcompete you for mom resources. Long gestation means your siblings are older when you come out, to a greater degree fending for themselves. So the genes leading to long pregnancy leads to greater fitness to those babies.

You have communal care by the workers so time between births is not an issue. You have genetic engineering so you can shorten gestation by asserting it is so. Likewise multiple births. It would conserve eggs if the multiple were not the result of different conception events (like fraternal twins or the Octomom) but identicals: the result of one zygote which then splits into multiples before developing into babies. This would also be a good story device because each litter of siblings could have a reference name with the individuals having a number with the name. Within the litter they would look the same but different litters would be different ages and slightly different genomic composition.

You then can and should make the Queen the optimal way for the story: a formidable 8 feet tall Venus of Willendorf or sprawling she-Jabba.

It occurs to me that having a random sperm for each baby will mix up your genome to a degree such that your weird pseudohuman system might not be stable / sustainable because of dilution from genes outside the system. It would make sense for the queen to be parthenogenetic: no outside DNA necessary. Parthenogenetic lizards are not asexual: the gametes are still products of meiosis and so progeny are not buds or clones like a jellyfish would make. Note that the Queen does not have a Y and so parthenogenetic offspring will be female. The possibility of parthenogenesis does not mean obligately parthenogenetic: some reptiles (alligators?) fall back to that mode only when no males are around.

Some parthenogenetic lizards still need to mate to kick things off; they either recruit a male from a different species or another female performs the male role. You can go into this aspect more or less as appropriate for the tone of your story and your audience.


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