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Hive Caste System

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Oftentimes, when Bee People show up to fight a Bug War against humanity, while the humans use the full panoply of technology, including spaceships, tanks, Powered Armor, and military aircraft, the Bugs are likely to use specialized castes of their own race instead, with a large level of polymorphism between different castes of the same species to adapt them to specialized roles. This system is actually inspired by certain Real Life ants, bees and termites, who indeed come in several of the varieties seen below.

Since the Ants and Bees that inspired this trope have all-female worker castes, this often leads to a sort of One-Gender Race. Can overlap with Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism if the castes are based on biological sex.

When aliens have a caste system, but the various castes are not physically very different, that's not this trope, that's Fantastic Caste System. Often leads to Crippling Overspecialization for individuals, or is a way to avoid it for the race as a whole.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Chrono Crusade: The manga version mixes this trope with Fantastic Caste System for the demons. Although we're never told the details of the system, demons often talk about the "rank" of themselves and other demons, and the higher the "rank", the less beast-like and more intelligent and powerful the demon seems to be. There also seems to be clearly defined roles for demons — among the ones the audience learns about are Pursuers (which seem to be Demon Cops of some sort), soldiers, Sinners (outcasts), and Pandaemonium, the Hive Queen.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: The Slivers are pretty solidly this. The trope is played with in that their apparent home plane, Rath, is a Death World, and so even the lowest of the low of them are deadly enough to kill and devour a human — there is no real "worker caste", just "specialized breeds that are useful in this particular tactical environment". Each breed also shares their adaptations with everyone else in the hive. Thrulls also fit the bill. There are even some that exist primarily to be worn as armor by other creatures.

    Comic Books 
  • In Astro City, the Zirr are insectoid aliens whose society has assigned roles for all adult members. Though they are a war-oriented society, not all roles are related to fighting — non-combat roles like healers, religious leaders, engineers, and empaths are mentioned.
  • DC Universe: The Reach, who primarily appear in Blue Beetle. They're different from most examples as members of the higher castes can earn their way to changing to other high castes over time, but the lower ones like solders and workers are physically different and cannot.

    Film – Animated 
  • Antz: Even though the ants are Funny Animals, soldier ants are about twice the size of workers and have Heroic Builds. The Queen has an enlarged abdomen and gives birth every ten seconds, although Princess Bala does not yet look any different from a worker.
  • Disney Fairies: Fairies are all Born as an Adult from a baby's first laugh. At the moment of birth, they are presented with a specific item that represents their in-grown talent. When their talent is revealed (tinker, animal, light, water, etc.) they work with the other fairies of the same talent with their jobs in relegating nature and the seasons for the rest of their eternal lives. They are unable to personally choose their talent and abilities, nor are they able to switch between them before Zarina figures out how to create pixie dust that can accomplish this.

    Film – Live-Action 
  • Alien: The series features several stages of life for Xenomorphs, from facehuggers through chestbursters to your standard double-jawed Giger nightmare. And then there was the Queen, who laid eggs and was fiercely protective of her offspring. It was implied and then later confirmed in the movies, video games, and books that the xenomorphs take on characteristics from the host they gestate within. That explains why a chestbuster coming from a dog looks doglike and why one from a Predator is bigger than those from humans and has the characteristic mandibles and dreadlocks. Novelizations and Expanded Universe material would feature more castes, such as tiny drones (who serve the Queen) and even a "Pretorian class," which was far tougher than the standard Xenomorph.
  • Star Trek: First Contact expands on the Borg, and develops the hive mentality of the species by introducing the Borg Queen, who does all the thinking and planning for The Collective. The Borg Cube is shown to be a hive which the workers are continually expanding and eeveloping.
  • Starship Troopers The Movie and its direct-to-DVD sequels added Plasma Bugs, who shot blue death from their butts clear up to orbit; Tanker Bugs, giant bombardier beetles who spat red death at close range; Chariot Bugs, who carried around the bloated Brain Bugs; Hoppers, which could fly but were otherwise similar to Warriors; and in the later films Control Bugs, who were much smaller and could mind-control people similar to Puppeteer Parasites, and the God-Bug or Brain-Of-Brains Behemecoatyl, a top-level caste with a hyperintelligent and telepathic Bug that overgrows most of a planet. See Literature for the book, where they were quite different.
  • The Time Machine (2002): The Morlocks have not only evolved to live underground and prey on the surface-dwelling Eloi, but also into at least two different castes, one of them the more muscular drones/warriors, and another one possessing greater cognitive abilities and psychic powers to control the other.

  • Alien in a Small Town: The Jan have male Workers, the majority of their population; sterile Warriors, with six clawed arms and giant fanged jaws; and breeding Matriarchs, who essentially mature into sessile living mountains and serve as the leaders of Jannite society.
  • The Book of Dragons: "We Endure", the alien dragons live in an eusocial caste system consisting of a Queen, who is the only member to reproduce; Gatherers, who forage for food and raw resources to bring back to the hive; Warriors, who defend the hive from intrusions and attack rival hives; Nest Tenders, who care for eggs and larvae; and Cleaners, who maintain hygiene in the hive itself and dispose of the bodies of dead dragons.
  • Books of the Raksura: The Raksura, shapeshifting Draconic Humanoids, are born into one of seven distinct roles as determined by their biology, although in extreme circumstances one might undergo a spontaneous Metamorphosis into a needed role. Among the winged Aeriat, there are fertile female Queens, fertile male Consorts, and sterile Warriors. Among the wingless Arbora, there are Teachers, Hunters, Soldiers, and Mentors.
  • Codex Alera: The Vord adapt different sub-species to deal with specific situations. Vord Queens, Vord warriors, wax spiders (which fill the "worker" slot) and Takers are the standard castes (though they vary depending on which race the Vord copied for them), but there are many more beyond that which are created during the course of the series, in response to different threats. For example, a flying caste to counter the Alerans' use of Knights Aeris, and burrowers to counter fortifications.
  • Dark Nest Trilogy: Killiks in general are hiveminded insects, and the people of other species who've been absorbed into the hive mind are called Joiners. There are several species of Killik, all of them sentient, all of them different somehow - mostly, these are minor things like speed, dexterity, priorities like aesthetics, skills, and preferred tactics, but some are particularly specialized, from being only inches long to fifty-meter-long tanks.
  • The Dreamers: The original workers and warriors are joined by humanoid bugs capable of semi-independent thought. Eventually this causes problems for the species as contrary points of view need to be dealt with for the first time.
  • Humanx Commonwealth: Mentioned in the ancient history of the Thranx, a species of Insectoid Aliens somewhat like giant praying mantises. They used to have hives of drones, workers, and soldiers ruled by fertile queens, but liberated themselves after evolving true intelligence and universal fertility. Hivemothers and Clanmothers are still honored, but the role is more ceremonial in the modern day.
  • The Mote in God's Eye: The Moties are divided up into a number of castes, including Mediators, Engineers, Physicians, Warriors and Masters. They have genetically based differences in bodies and mindsets.
  • Perry Rhodan: If an intelligent alien species is insectoid, it's all but guaranteed to have a hive structure and be run by a highly intelligent queen who's also generally still the overall mother of her people. After that, caste specialization varies with the individual species.
  • The Saga of Seven Suns has the Ildirans with dozens of different castes, each different enough that some of them don't even appear to be the same species.
  • Starship Troopers. In the original novel, there were workers, who couldn't fight but were available in huge numbers and useful for diversions; Warriors, who fought with technological weapons equal to those of the Mobile Infantry; Brain Bugs, who psychically controlled most of the rest; and Queens, who laid eggs in huge numbers but did little else. However workers and warriors (which compose 99% of the race) are nearly identical in appearance. This is actually a plot point, when a massive decoy force — composed entirely of non-aggressive workers — is used as a feint.
  • The Stormlight Archive: The Parshendi have a partial variant of this. Each Parshendi is able to assume one of several different forms using the Mana from the frequent highstorms. At the start of the series, they know five forms, plus a sixth. First is warform, which grants strength and causes them to grow plate armor. Workform has strength comparable to warform, but lacks the armor and has a mental block against violence. Mateform is used for reproduction, while nimbleform is quick and dexterous. There is also dullform, a baseline form with no advantages. Finally, we have slaveform, the near-mindless "absence of form" in which the vast majority of Parshendi exist, and which is used by the humans as a Slave Race. During the second book, they unlock stormform, which grants Shock and Awe powers but opens the wearer to possession by Odium.
  • The Wandering Inn: Every Antinium (a race of humanoid insects) has a specific task to fulfill. The hive queen forms their body, while having in mind how it could help them accomplish their task. For example, a soldier is huge and muscular, while a worker is rather slender.
  • The Warded Man: The corelings. There are the near-mindless elemental drones (fire, water, rock, sand, wind, etc), the shapeshifting mimics, the psychically gifted mind corelings, and the unseen Queen.
  • Xeelee Sequence: Olympus Mons becomes a librarian hive — a great Archive full of large-headed Scholars, lean book-finding Runners and spiderlike Maintenance Workers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: The insectoid Gaim are divided into several castes like queens, warriors, workers and the only humanoids ambassadors. Not that you'll know this from the show itself. There is also fan speculation about a caste system among the Drakh, because of the very different look of the leaders and soldiers.
  • Extraterrestrial (2005): The stalkers live in large hives compared to those of eusocial insects, and are divided into slender-billed scouts, which search for and mark potential prey; more robust workers, which bring it down and carry the meat back to the nest; and an unseen breeding queen.
  • Farscape: The Scarrans have at least three castes in their hierarchy, sorted into Low, Middle and Ruling class: the Low-class "Horse-Faced" Scarrans are used as warriors, torturers, and ambassadors; the Middle-Class Scarrans tend to be found acting as bodyguards to the Ruling class; finally, the telepathic Ruling-Class Scarrans are high-ranking politicans and military officers, though some are happy acting as torturers and secret agents.
  • Stargate Atlantis: The Wraith are divided into Queens at the highest strata (typically just one per Hiveship), followed by male Wraith (functioning in officer and science capacities), and Wraith soldier-drones at the bottom, who are under the constant mental influence of the higher groups. Sometimes there are human Wraith worshippers as well, who are akin to pets/slaves for the Wraith. The queens themselves have a hierarchy with a You Kill It, You Bought It mentality.

    Other Sites 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Call of Cthulhu: At least one sourcebook divides the Mi-Go into three castes: warriors, workers and scientists.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Many types of outsiders come in a variety of forms that hold different positions in their hierarchies and can often change forms through being promoted or demoted, though some have more or less strict hierarchies that others, depending on if they are on the Lawful or Chaotic side.
      • Devils, as embodiments of Lawful Evil, have a strict caste system with different forms of devil performing different tasks; Bearded Devils are shock troops, Barbed Devils are guards, Bone Devils are police, Chain Devils are torturers, and so on. It's possible to be promoted up the ranks (and indeed, this is the goal of all devils), which changes a devil's form to fit its new duties.
      • Modrons, the embodiments of Lawful Neutral, have an even more rigid version than the devils. There are 5 'normal' grades of modron and 10 'heirarch' grades (which have a strictly limited number of members). Each type is one grade more intelligent than the grade below it and is only capable of communicating with its own grade and the grades directly above and below it. The base types are Monodrones which are spherical and can only think of one thing at a time, Duodrones, who are rectangular and can think of two tasks at once, Tridrones that are inverted pyramids that can think of three things at a time (allowing them to actually delegate things), Quadrones who are cubical can understand 4 things at a time (allowing them to perform more complex tasks than other modrons), and Pentadrones, which are weird starfish-things who can have up to five functions, allowing them to communicate, operate, monitor, plan, and manage. The Heirarch modrons are Decatons, Nonatons, Octons, Septons, Hextons, Quintons, Quartons, Tertions, and Secundi, with the ultimate modron, Primus, serving as both the motherboard of modrons and their equivalent to a god.
      • The Formians, an ant-like Outsider race with various specialized subtypes (worker, warrior, elite warrior, winged warrior, giant warrior, observer, taskmaster, and queen).
      • Demodands come in three different types. According to at least one source, there are precisely 10,000 demodands at any time, 3,333 of each rank plus their ruler Apomps the Three-Sided. If a demodand is destroyed, then a new Farastu is created, and if the destroyed demodand was higher ranked one, other demodands will be promoted to keep the ranks balanced.
      • As creatures of Chaotic Evil, Demons come in a huge variety of form but don't really have a strict hierarchy. More powerful demons just bully the weaker ones into submission. A few types do have special roles in demon society. Nalfeshees for example are the judges of the abyss who decide what kinds of demons damned souls are turned into and are in charge of the abyssal Kangaroo Court system.
      • Yugoloths, the Neutral Evil fiends have a hierarchy with Skeroloths (Cannon Fodder), Canoloths (guard dogs), and Mezzoloths (common foot soldiers) as some of the ones at bottom, and with Arcanaloths (merchants and dealmakers) and Ultroloths (commanders) at the top, and several other types in between. The rulers of yugoloth kind are the Altraloths, A few types don't quite fit into the regular hierarchy. Baernaloths are the Ancient Evil elders of yugoloth kind who are respected by other types, but generally are uninterested in ruling over them. Battleloths are weak fighters but are valued for their ability to shapeshift into weapons.
    • Beholder hives have Hive Mothers (magically modified beholders) which rule over normal beholders and specialized abominations they spawned.
    • Kreen are very social insectoids, but live in networks of small groups, not hives — so there are basic roles, but no "castes". However, some Dark Sun tohr-kreen create lots of Super-Soldier scouts, so modified that the term for them translates as "altered near-person" (but scouts don't know this).
    • Saurials do something like this via social symbiosis of several different species, naturally with different abilities. It's not a strictly binding limitation, but small fragile flier both naturally makes a great scout and courier, and is likely to prefer such an activity over any manual labour.
    • Abeils (who provide the page image) are literal Bee People with three castes: vassals (average citizens and basic infantry), soldiers (elite warriors), and queens.
    • The Hivebrood from Basic/Expert/etc. D&D combine this trope with The Virus.
  • Talislanta: Native insect-folk include the aggressive "sniper bugs" and nomadic "caravan bugs". These Bugs Are Different in that they're the size of ordinary insects, and are included more for exotic flavor than as potential opponents ... although the former are feuding with the pixie-like (and equally small) whisps, and the latter will trade tiny samples of rare plants for minute amounts of food.
  • Traveller: Droyne have several castes, including Leaders, Warriors (who grow larger than the others), and — unusually — Sports, who have the job description "Go out there and MINGLE!"
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Tyranids don't have castes per se, but various different types of Tyranid creatures are bred to do specific jobs, ranging from enormous Hive Ships to not-quite-as-enormous (but still as big as most Humongous Mecha) Biotitans to various Synapse Creatures (that control lesser Tyranid creatures) to tank-sized montrosities and smaller and more numerous warrior organisms, down to bug-sized living ammunition. Non-combat Tyranid creatures include the Norn Queens (that breed other Tyranids inside the Hive Ships), capillary towers (which funnel nutrients from overrun planets to hive ships in orbit) and mycetic spores (organic drop pods). Even their weapons and ammo are Tyranid creatures.
    • While not bug people, the Tau have a caste system where members of each caste possess different physiologies. The military Fire caste are tall and strong, the pilot Air caste are slender and have better depth-perception and G-force tolerance, and the worker Earth caste are short and stocky. These didn't originate as biological castes in the strict sense; rather, the early Tau split into four subspecies adapted to different environments, which were formalized into castes early in their history and are kept distinct mainly by cultural pressure.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: The Lizardmen have the small, wiry Skinks (drones), who handle their society's artisan crafts and also serve as priests and wizards; strong, massive Saurus (warriors), who live for nothing but fighting and form the bulk of the Lizardmen's armed forces and guards; the absolutely massive Kroxigor (workers), who perform most heavy construction and repair labor in the temple-cities; and the toadlike Slann as a kind of "Queen Bees", acting as the high priests, societal leaders and archmages. That said, all four of them will fight if called upon, the Skinks acting as scouts, assassins, skirmishers, beast handlers, scribes and overseers; the Kroxigors as shock troops and living tanks; and the Slann leading armies and raining magical destruction 'round the enemies' ears. An interesting note is that the Lizardmen aren't born in the usual sense — they crawl out of special spawning pools in the hearts of their cities (with one kind of pools for Slann that rarely activates, one for Saurus and one for Skinks and Kroxigor alike), being quite literally bred for their roles.

  • BIONICLE: The Skrall are a gender-segregated version of this. Among the males, there are the nameless "warrior" Skrall, which make up most of the population and serve as Mooks, then the Elite Skrall (Bigger, more powerful Skrall ), and finally the enormous Leader Class who are in charge of the Skrall society. The females live separately to the males, and it's implied that the only interaction between the genders consists of fighting or mating. The females also have Psychic Powers.
  • LEGO Alien Conquest: The alien invaders are made up of several different-looking subtypes that all serve different roles. The Alien Pilots specialize in piloting vehicles and have average-sized brains, the Alien Troopers are ground forces and are toughest with the smallest brains and the Alien Commander is a unique-looking specimen with tentacles instead of legs and a large translucent brain.

    Video Games 
  • Age of Wonders:
    • Differences between units of the same species are sometimes obviously biological, at least for Draconians and Shadow Demons.
    • Age of Wonders: Planetfall: The Kir'Ko field units with wildly varying body types. Frenzied and Hidden have humanoid body types, Barragers and Abyssians are beetle-like and walk on 6 legs, and Transcendent and Harbingers are legless and float using Psychic Powers.
  • Conquest of Elysium 4: The Dwarves have one female dwarf to a mine, and all the male dwarves are her children. Her eggs hatch into worker dwarves, some of which mature into soldier dwarves; if the workers can supply this outfit with metals and precious gems, it can further specialize dwarves into drones and magical smiths, and lay new queens to start new mines.
  • Destiny: The Hive are divided into castes (also referred to as morphs, since they involve a lower caste mutating into a higher caste), although all of them are variants on the Warrior because of their Omnicidal Maniac culture. Thrall are immature Hive who swarm in huge numbers and are used as Cannon Fodder; the survivors mature into Acolytes, who serve as basic infantry; surviving Acolytes then morph into Knights, reproductive males and elite heavy infantry, or eat the “mother jelly” and become Wizards, reproductive egg-laying females capable of flight and specialists in magic. There are a handful of variants on this system: Ogres are Thralls mutated with magic into barely-sentient living war machines, and there was a single “king morph” who theoretically ruled all the Hive, although in practice his two siblings, the strongest Knight and the strongest Wizard, had equal authority. There is also at least once instance of a female Knight (the aforementioned strongest Knight), and one male who looked a lot like a Wizard (although he didn’t seem able to fly).
  • Dwarf Fortress: Antmen, one of the primitive underground animal people, come in four castes: workers, a third the size of a dwarf; drones, the same size and winged; warriors, as big a dwarf, that will defend the queen at all costs; and the queen, the size of a lion and the only female.
  • Guilty Gear: All Gears are magically-augmented lifeforms built for warfare, and they come in various forms to suit their battlefield role. Regular Gears form "the backbone", they're built for rugged combat and often feature sharp claws and armoured carapaces, so they resemble ancient mythological monsters. Large Gears are bigger and stronger than Regulars, and often work as Giant Mooks as well as manual labour. Flying Gears often resemble bats, dragons and other monsters, and serve as air support. Toxic Gears are poor fighters but capable of releasing magic-based gases and spores as a form of biological warfare. Megadeth Gears are basically monstrous Kaiju which range between the size of a small building to the size of a large mountain, and are meant for the wholesale destruction of cities. Humanoid Gears are created from converting humans into Gears or are the offspring of Gear and human couples. Command Gears have the unique ability to control other Gears on a massive scale through pheromones, and often possess an affinity for magic as well as excellent combat ability. Prototype Gears, created from the oldest batch of Gears, count as Super Prototypes and possess phenomenal magical and combat prowess and can easily curbstomp even the mighty Megadeth Gears. Justice, Valentine and Dizzy are Command types, Testament and Sin Kiske are Humanoid types, and Sol Badguy is the only known Prototype class.
  • Half-Life 2: Antlions are composed of several different castes. These including the standard Antlion, Workers (which tend the Antlion grubs and can spit corrosive acid), and Antlion Myrmidonts (which are huge and serve as miniboss monsters), and the Antlion King.
  • Halo: The Yanme'e (Drones) are a downplayed version of this; they're divided into Queens, Protectors, Domestics, etc., but most Yanme'e castes are physically fairly similar to each other. Also, they use the same high-tech energy weapons as the rest of the Covenant.
  • Marathon: The Pfhor are hinted to be like this. In Infinity, Tycho says "bugs are so obedient" in reference to the Pfhor under his command, and they have a clear caste system in which the lower ranking members are considered more expendable than the upper ranking ones.
  • Mass Effect has the Rachni. Among the types you encounter are Workers (who just explode to kill you), Soldiers (who actually fight you) and Brood Warriors (larger, Biotics-using Soldiers, who according to the codex are also the Rachni males), and the Queen. There additionally seems to be a similar social ordering in the franchise's other quasi-insectoid race, the Collectors, who are mostly made up of drones who (according to Mordin's observations anyway) have close to no individuality—any one of these drones can be possessed by their leader, the 'Collector General' who operates much like the typical queen of this trope and is the only one among them who ever displays language or advanced independent thought.
  • Metroid: The Space Pirates. Higher ranks are more powerful and specialized, whereas ordinary grunts serve as either arm cannon fodder, unwilling test subjects for the science division, or lunch. Yeah, life as a Space Pirate sucks.
  • The Sims 2: There is only one playable non-hybrid alien in the original game (though you can get another with the University Expansion Pack), Pollination Tech#9 Smith, and from what can be seen in his family tree, alien society is organized like this. The only two castes seen are drones (called Pollination Techs) and hive queens. Pollination Techs also are the ones that abduct, probe and impregnate male Sims.
  • SimTunes: The bugs are insects crossed with musical instruments.
  • Starcraft: The majority of Zerg are warriors of different specializations, with zerglings as the basic warrior. Drones are workers, overlords are sub-command units (subservient to the cerebrates and the Overmind, or Kerrigan and the Brood Mothers in the second game) while hatcheries ("buildings" that are actually metamorphosed drones) produce larvae that become most of the various castes. The diversity is justified as the Zerg assimilate the DNA of other species.
  • Sword of the Stars: Hivers:
    • Hivers are organized in clans centered around a princess, who has birthed all members of that clan. Aside from birthing princesses, hivers come in three kinds: Workers (scientists, engineers, artists, etc.), warriors (heavy manual labor, high-risk work, soldiers, etc.) and princes (sexually active and otherwise basically big, intelligent warriors). Each of the castes can apparently be further divided, as the princess is able to modify her eggs to slightly specialize the role of the hiver that hatches from it — she can, for instance, make a clutch of soldiers slightly more radiation-resistant than normal to work in fallout clearance, but she can't make soldiers with wings and acid-spitting. Hivers thus use a panoply of technology (guns, tanks, starships, armour, etc.) roughly equal to those of humans and tarka, and nothing strictly prevents a worker from picking up one of their guns and using it... Apart from the problem that said gun was likely built for a soldier and weighs a bit more than your average worker can handle.
    • The Hiver system also has a weird form of social mobility: Hiver brains can survive for a few days after the body dies, and princesses can swallow the disembodied brains and recycle them into new bodies. If a worker or soldier impresses the princess enough she might decide they're leadership material and rebirth them as a prince. Do something really impressive and Grandma might decide they're what she's looking for in a new princess.
    • Reborn Hivers usually keep their original name with the infix "zo" added. For example, the novel Deacon's Tale features a prince named Chezokin, who used to be a worker named Chekin.
    • There is also the Queen who births all princesses, when she dies her daughters fight amongst one another for the right to consume her ovaries, transforming her into a new Queen. Though a princess who isolates herself for about 200 years might also turn into a Queen, explaining how multiple Hiver factions are possible.
  • Vega Strike: Rlaan, despite their arthropoda appearance, are far from a hive. But they have "worker" and "defender" subspecies, with "administrator" sterile hybrids that have mental qualities of subspecies balanced. As a bonus, these aren't going to spawn any hereditary aristocracy.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The game has had insectoid races since its first incarnation, beginning with the Silithids and their more advanced cousins the Qiraji, which are differentiated into such castes as worker, flyer, tank, soldier and queen.
    • Later, the Wrath of the Lich King expansion expanded on the beetle/spider-like Nerubians that had been introduced in Warcraft III, this race includes priests and necromancers among its ranks.
    • The Mantids of the Mists of Pandaria expansion show by far the most nuanced and advanced differentiation of any arthropoid culture in Azeroth to date (probably because player interact with the Mantid more than any other race). Among the mantids' various caste differentiations all manner of specializations including poisoners, blademasters, preservers, swarmkeepers, philosophers, puppetmasters, and even paladins exist.

    Web Original 
  • Bosun's Journal: The humlings are a eusocial species with a complex caste system inspired by the side-blotched lizards, which have three male and two female morphs in real life. Humlings have three sexes — males, fertile females (called pregnantrices, and much larger than the others) and sterile females — divided between three castes each — workers who dig the colony's underground nests, scout territory, and gather food, nurses who tend to young and pregnantrices, and hunters who track and kill prey and fight off threats. Sterile females perform the basic tasks in the colony, pregnantrices of all three castes produce young, and males live as nomadic, solitary predators who roam around looking for colonies with whose pregnantrices they try to mate — worker males sneak in and cuddle with pregnantrices to get them in the mood to mate, and sometimes spend a longer period with the colony and aid the female workers in their tasks; nurse males try to impress the colony with dances, singing, and offerings of food; hunter males throw themselves against the colony's defenders and fight them until they either fall over from exhaustion or have sufficiently impressed the pregnantrices. Matings between same-caste males and pregnantrices produce a crop of sterile females of that caste; if two of different castes mate, they produce either a male or a pregnantrice of the other caste. As all fertile humlings are born to parents of other castes, this serves as the main method by which the different morphs don't speciate into different breeding populations.
  • Drowtales: It's suggested that because most driders are sterile, there is a mass-egglaying drider queen, although they do not have many specialized castes otherwise.
  • Hamster's Paradise: Eusocial insects such as ants, termites and wasps were among the selection of organisms brought to HP-02017, most of them are what you'd expect but there are a few more standout examples:
    • The orange treeroyal is a species of beetle that independently developed a eusocial lifestyle and what caste they are depends on how much they were fed as larvae with most being small minor workers, larger major workers and soldiers while queens are born seasonally. They also have male drones that leave their birth colony to join others and mate with their queens but unlike ants and bees the males don't die after mating and will instead become the queen's personal harem as well was help cool the colony with their wings.
    • The hook-jawed pirant is a member of a family of ants that evolved to live in watery areas by using their own bodies as rafts known as raftants, their colonies mostly consist of the standard castes seen on most ant species, but they have one unique to themselves with the rafter caste, these ants have hairs on their feet that allow them to propel their colony across the water's surface similar to a water strider rather than just going where the current takes them like other raftants.
    • The bombermite is a species of termite that has several different warrior castes as a way of dealing with the armored giraards that feed on their colonies. One called the biter with large pinching mandibles, sprayers that shoot noxious chemicals at their attackers and the bombers which explode in a show of stick, toxic secretions.
  • Tech Infantry repeats most of the bug castes it borrowed from Starship Troopers, but adds Guardian Bugs and Emperor Bugs, gigantic guards and mates for the queen; Drones, a tougher version of Workers that can fight by trying to bite enemies, and gives the Warrior bugs and larger castes the ability to use magic.

    Western Animation 
  • Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles The animated TV series kept all the new bugs from the movie, and added the Transport Bugs, huge bugs that serve as Living Starships; Ripplers, acid-dart-spitting variations on the Hoppers; Firefries, bugs that spit flame, and Ice Bugs, huge bugs that hide as ice-covered asteroids and live in a symbiotic relationship with the Firefries. There are various other insectlike species on several planets, but it's unclear if they're part of the Bugs or just dangerous animals; the Bugs can assimilate other species or absorb traits from them, so variations in appearance don't tell you much. The last two campaigns introduced Bugs based on human DNA, infiltrators that on Klendathu needed to wear MI armor to pass for human but could actually shapeshift in the Earth campaign.
  • Steven Universe: Although Gem types fulfill roles more typical of a Fantastic Caste System (corresponding to human occupations like engineers or architects, and even having nobility), they vary greatly in shape, size, physical ability, and various powers even if though they're all humanoid and fully sapient. These differences come from deliberate design instead of evolution, as the whole race (except perhaps their leaders, the Diamond Authority) seems to have been created artificially. In one commonality with bees, they are all female—there's no equivalent to drones because gems are grown from the ground using machines. This origin makes Homeworld denizens completely ignorant of how other sentient species, such as humans, are born and named. On many occasions, Homeworld Gems believe that individually named humans are representative of a type of human, such as when Aquamarine and Topaz are sent by Yellow Diamond to collect "My Dad, a Connie, a Lars, a Sadie, a Mailman, and an Onion-I-Think" for the Human Zoo, based on something Steven once said to Peridot about humans prior to her Heel–Face Turn.
    An army has a use — they can go and fight a war.
    A Sapphire has a use, she can tell you what it's for.
    An Agate terrifies, a Lapis terraforms...
    • Peridots are technicians, operating and fixing machinery and managing the Kindergartens.
    • Quartzes (Rose Quartzes, Amethysts, Jaspers, Carnelians, etc.) are soldiers, who live for fighting. Agates are officers of groups of Quartz-soldiers, responsible for managing their tasks and keeping them in line.
    • Rubies serve as generic soldiers and bodyguards for upper-class gems, and are almost always put in groups of at least three.
    • Sapphires are high-class Seers.
    • Pearls are status symbol servants of high-class gems, and are generally used for "standing around, looking nice, and holding your stuff for you".
    • Lapis Lazuli are terraformers.
    • Bismuths are builders.
    • Topazes and Citrines are elite guards, whether of places or of people.
    • Zircons are lawyers.
    • Nephrites are space pilots.
    • Emeralds are space admirals.
    • Hessonites, along with other types of Garnet like Demantoid and Pyrope, appear to be high-ranking military officers.
    • Jades are courtiers of some sort.
    • Spinels are entertainers.
    • Pebbles, which are ordinary stones animated by the diamonds instead of being manufactured like other gems, are so low ranked that they don't even seem to be treated as people by most gems. Blue diamond uses a pebble as a living comb, and Pink Diamond has pebbles living in the walls of her room, working to change the shape of the room at the command of those inside it while staying out of sight.
    • Morganites, Aquamarines, Rutiles, and Pyrite are all featured in some form, but their exact roles in Gem Society is unclear.
    • The Diamonds are the leaders of gemkind as a whole. There are only four, each one unique, with their own duties under the caste system: Yellow Diamond is the commander of Homeworld's military, Blue Diamond is the leader of Homeworld's court system, Pink Diamond is in charge of entertainment for the other Diamonds, and White Diamond, unquestioned matriarch of the entire empire, created the caste system in the first place.
    • Off-Colors are Gems who buck the caste system — either they emerged with some unacceptable physical or mental flaw, or they engage in behaviors that violate the boundaries of caste such as committing the crime of fusing with a different kind of gem. Homeworld tries to destroy these Gems as soon as they're detected. There's a little bit of wiggle room, though: an ongoing resource shortage means some Gem types (like Peridots) have to be manufactured imperfectly, using technological augmentation to make up for things like reduced height and missing powers.

    Real Life 
  • Ants and bees, all of order Hymenoptera, and termites, from order Isoptera, almost all of which have specialized Queens, Drones, and Workers.
    • Some also add nursemaids to take care of the young, up to several sub-castes of soldiers, and Honeypot ants add workers adapted to serve as living storage jars for nectar. Bugs are cool, huh?
    • Some termite species even have warriors that spray irritating liquids: a genuine example of the Breath Weapon caste option.
    • There is even a species of ant whose warrior caste takes expendable to new heights. Upon critical injury, it explodes in a shower of harmful chemical agents, doing more damage than it could fighting to the death after such a wound.
    • In Asian marauder ants, the workers come in a wide range of sizes, and each particular size is assigned a certain specific task through which the different size-castes cooperate, such as when harvesting food, where a mid-sized worker plucks seeds from a stem while smaller workers cart them away. The largest of them, known as supermajors, can grow up to fifty times the size of the smallest workers, and are used for heavy lifting as well as a convenient mode of transport for the smaller workers, who hitch rides on their hulking sisters.
  • Some species of tiny gall-infesting insects (aphids, thrips) and three species of sponge-parasitic shrimps live in colonies of closely-related or clonal individuals, some of which develop enlarged mandibles/pincers to serve as a "soldier" caste. As breeding isn't restricted to a single female, inbreeding and mutual defense of a "fortress" gall or sponge seem to be the drivers for caste evolution in these instances.
  • One Australian beetle (Austroplatypus incompertus) is now known to demonstrate a simple form of eusociality, with a single breeding female producing lots of offspring that excavate tunnels in trees and care for her young.
  • The naked mole rat, a "mammalian ant", is one of two mammals that have insect-like sociality, with "Queen" and "Workers" (the other is another mole rat). Unlike eusocial insects, they aren't irreversibly born into their castes — all naked mole rats are born as workers, with pheromones in the queen's excrements, which the workers absorb when using the latrine burrows, keeping them that way. When the queen dies, the female workers begin to compete for dominance until one matures into a queen and begins producing the suppressive pheromones again. Also said to be insusceptible to cancer. See the other wiki.
  • Siphonophores are colonial super-organisms made up of small organisms called zooids, each with its own specialty. Some specialize in catching prey, others digesting it, others locomotion, and still others specialize in reproduction. Some siphonophores can be many times larger than the largest animal, the blue whale; the only reason they don't count as "the largest animal" is because they consist of multiple "animals" all working together. However, unlike most examples of this trope, there is no hierarchy; all the zooids have a job to do, but none of them are "more important" than any other. They're all needed to keep the siphonophore going.

Alternative Title(s): Our Bugs Are Different, Bug Caste System