Insect societies, how weird are they?

March 11, 2014Byens Lys Copenhagen
Insect Societies
Doors open: 19:00
Start programme: 20:00
Byens Lys
Fabriksområdet 99

Who were the first to invent sperm banks and did they need freezers? Are practices such as slavery and defense by mercenary soldiers uniquely human? Who were the first to domesticate crops and cattle? What are the overall principles of sustainable disease management and the use of antibiotics? Does every society need a police force to remain stable?

Since biblical times the ants have been role-models of industrious labor and our food production would collapse without pollinating bees. There are also termites that eat wooden buildings further south, and wasps with nasty poisonous stings. All these insects have in common that they independently invented eusociality, a form of life-time family commitment that allows reproductive division of labor. They build impressive colonies and have developed a language (honeybees), fungus-farming for food (some ants and termites) and impressive nest-building architecture. As society builders, they are second only to humans, but are their colonies in any way comparable to our societies?

Is anything that we can we learn from their biology useful for understanding the human condition? Jacobus Boomsma will argue that there is, but within carefully defined limits as insect societies have no individual freedom.

Afterwards, chilled cocktails and Niochnioski taking the stage under Pussykrew, using both ‘traditional’ and custom made tools and patches and creating gender-bending visual journeys, filtered through carnal data mesh, liquid apocalyptic dysphoria and some 3d fantasy shuffle.

Organised in cooperation with Science Friction.

Talk by

Jacobus Boomsma

Professor at the department of Biology, University of Copenhagen and director of the Center for Social Evolution. His research interests include the biology of conflict and cooperation, including the behavioral ecology (sex allocation and mating systems), population genetics, and evolution of insect societies and their (social) parasites and symbiotic mutualists.


Music by


Andrzej Wojtas and Ewelina Aleksandrowicz are Polish artists who are collaboratively working within the area of new media. Their interdisciplinary practices range from audio-visual performance, live coding, multimedia installations - to sound experiments, sensor based technologies and DIY electronics. Under the Pussykrew moniker, Aleksandrowicz and Wojtas are producing live visuals, video installations and videoclips.