Ender's Game Wiki
"If it came to war, nobody wages more terrible war than the Formics."
The Last Shadow, Chapter 19
SPOILER WARNING: First/Second Formic War and Ender Quintet plot details follow.


A Formic worker with a defoliant spray tank on the cover of the French edition of Earth Afire.[1]

The Formics were an advanced space-faring alien species. Although they were officially named Formics (from the Latin word for ant),[2] the aliens were nicknamed Buggers by humans due to their insect-like appearance.[3] The Formic race consisted of Hive Queens, male drones, and workers.[4] The entire species shared a hive mind, so the loss of individual workers did not concern them.[5]

The Formics killed over 40 million humans during the First Invasion of the Formic Wars[5] in the belief they were simply scouring the lifeforms of Earth, to be replaced with the native life of their homeworld. After the defeat of the Formic fleet in the Second Invasion and the death of a Hive Queen, the Formics realized that the humans were sentient and did not invade them again.[3]

During the Third Invasion, Ender Wiggin used the Molecular Disruption Device that was like 10,000 atomic bombs on the Formic homeworld, destroying the planet and all the Hive Queens on it; thus almost killing off the Formic species in its entirety.[3]

Before their demise, the Hive Queens hacked the Mind Game in Battle School in an attempt to communicate with Ender Wiggin.[3] Although they failed to talk to him, the interaction led Ender to discover a Hive Queen cocoon on a planet they had colonized, named Shakespeare by the humans. The Formics had left the Queen there, trusting Ender that he would take it with him on his voyages, and attempt to find a world where their species could be reborn.[6]

The Formics re-created their civilization 3,150 years after their destruction on the planet Lusitania,[7] and later colonized other planets using faster-than-light travel.[8]


The Formics bore similar physical characteristics with a species of insects native to Earth, ants. This led to a pejorative term, Buggers, being used to refer to them more often than Formic during the time of the Third Invasion.[3] Due to the intense fighting that happened between Formic nests on their homeworld, Formics evolved first and foremost to fight and kill.[6]

Formic Worker Comic

A Formic worker attacking during the First Invasion.


Also known as soldiers, Formic workers were about four feet tall and had six arms. Their skin was mainly red, with some yellow, orange and green throughout. While they appeared insectoid, they had fine wisps of short hair covering their body, similar to the hair on a human's arm. Each worker had subtle variations to its appearance.[9]


A close-up of a Formic worker.

Even though they had antennae, they seemed to be vestigial in that they had no use for touch, sound, smell or taste. Autopsies by human scientists showed that the Formics had an internal skeleton, but also retained an exoskeleton.[2]

Their mental functions were directly controlled by Hive Queens. The worker did the construction, repair, fighting, and other efforts necessitated for keeping the hive healthy. However, not all workers could be fully controlled by a Hive Queen - some were more resistant to their mental control than others.[8]

Hive Queens[]

The Hive Queen Comic

The Hive Queen of Shakespeare in Speaker for the Dead (Comic Book).

Hive Queens were around three meters in length, with large compound eyes, and a reddish-brown skin tone. Similar to ants, Hive Queens possessed wings in their youth in order to move to new areas, but these atrophied in later life. They physically retained the wings, but they were no longer functional.[8]

Hive Queens had a highly adaptive immune system, which worked effectively enough so that there was no need for medical research and kept their species safe from the Descolada on Lusitania.[8]

The Hive Queens were capable of telepathic communication among the rest of the Queens.[3] The Queens were the only Formics capable of laying eggs, after mating with the male drones.[4]


A Hive Queen in Ender's Game (Film).

When a Hive Queen cocoon was laid, a worker had to be fed to the fertilized egg. The Hive Queen was given an intelligent Philote, an Aiúa, only after its birth, and the mind of the entire population of Formics was absorbed by the newborn queen. Once the Queen had control over the Formic workers, they would instantly act with what she willed for them to do.[8]

To create most of the technology and structures used by the Formics, Hive Queens bioengineered creatures with similar biology to the Formics that performed tasks for them.[5] On various planets, including Shakespeare, Gold Bugs and other metal-processing creatures were used to mine resources for the Formics.[6] The Hive Queens created creatures that could build near-indestructible hulls for use in Formic scout ships, as well as some that built and could repair resin shells around Formic-occupied asteroids, like 2030CT.[5]

The level of control the Hive Queens had over the animals they engineered was the subject of much debate between xenobiologists. For primitive creatures like the mining bugs, the Hive Queens would give them a small mental impulse to do what they were engineered to do, checking in on them infrequently. To more complex organisms like the Formic workers, the Hive Queens would give general or specific instructions. For example, when simply ordered to "attack", workers would act individually and independently. However, in some situations the Hive Queens would seize full mental control, and the group of workers would move as a single organism.[5]

The minds of the Hive Queens worked similarly to the principles of the Ansible, always connected to the real time of the universe. This meant that during relativistic voyages, they experienced the full duration of time. Hive Queens never needed to subdivide time into hours and minutes and seconds, because with the worker Formics, everything was infinitely now.[6]


Male drones mated with Hive Queens, and their bodies were shaped to spend their lives clinging to them. Drones were capable of individual thought and action as well as mind-to-mind communication, but more limited than that of a Hive Queen. They possessed wings for flight and spent most of their life physically attached to a Hive Queen. Unlike workers, they did not die immediately when their Hive Queen died; instead, they would attempt to seek a new Hive Queen to mate with.[4]


The Formic Hive Queens created several sub-species that resembled the Formics. However, these species were not under the direct mental control of the Queens and could only receive impulses from the collective hive mind. They were more akin to animals than any kind of sentient being.[5]


Sel and Po discovering the Gold Bugs.

Gold Bugs[]

Gold Bugs and their aluminum and bauxite counterparts were a species native to Shakespeare that could ingest metallic rock and excrete a refined ore. When the Formics colonized Shakespeare, they spliced its genes to allow for Philotic communication from the Hive Queens, and were used to process metals used for military infastructure. They had six legs; the middle pair of limbs seemed more designed for clinging, the front ones were for grasping and tearing, and the hind ones for digging and running. Their backs were armored in their respective metal. They were animal-like and performed their singular task, metal collection and refinement automatically.[10][6]

The Gold Bug life cycle would begin with them ingesting the gold as larvae, going into a cocoon, and when they emerged, their bodies were encased in gold.[6]

When Sel Menach and Po Tolo discovered them in 41 AX, Sel discovered that humans could also relay philotic signals to their brains as well.[6]

Slug "Carriers"[]

The Hive Queen created sluglike "carriers" to help her with the eggs in the hive house on Lusitania. They could also be used to perform Formic "surgery", like when they were used to heal Thulium Delphiki of The Folk's bioweapon.[11]


Main article: Formic Wars

Early History[]

Originally, the Formic Homeworld was divided between rival and constantly warring nests, each controlled by a single Queen, fighting against all of the others without any alliances. Even a newly hatched Queen would fight its own mother to the death. Formic civilization truly began when one mother Queen managed to coax its daughter into not fighting it, to put an end to the senseless slaughter and benefit from joining forces. Automatically, this made their faction stronger than all of the others, as no two queens had ever allied before. In turn, each of the new Queen's daughters convinced its own daughters into working together, until after several generations the descendants of that first forward-thinking Hive Queen had eliminated all of the other nests and spread across their homeworld.[8]

From then on, the Formics expanded into the stars to colonize other planets. At first, they carved massive starships out of asteroids, like the Formic Ark. These ships were without a near-lightspeed drive, and thus took generations to reach their destination.[4]

As the centuries bore on, however, the Formics refined their colonization techniques. They eventually developed Egg Drives, enabling near-lightspeed flight which allowed them to colonize much faster,[6] as well as the near-indestructible material Hulmat. As the Hive Queens had a mastery over genetic science, they ran roughshod through the genomes of native species, adapting them however they needed to in order to gain complete mastery over their colony planets. By the time they had recognized Earth as a habitable planet, they had developed a system where a scout ship, equipped with a near-lightspeed drive, would arrive at a planet before the Hive Queen. The Formic crew of this ship would proceed to use defoliation gas on the entire biosphere of the planet, annihilating all life present. Not even skeletons or tree roots were left; everything was dissolved into soup. The life would then be replaced with flora and fauna from the Formic homeworld.[9] It is unknown if the reason the first planet to experience this colonization method was Earth was because it had just been developed, or they saw the technological prowess of humans as a threat and sought to eliminate their entire genetic structure.[10] It seemed as though while all of the later Formic colonies employed terraforming techniques to a degree, mostly wiping out the native flora and fauna, Earth was the only one to see destruction on this scale.[6][10]

The First Invasion[]


A photograph from the First Invasion, later used as propaganda by the International Fleet.

The Formics made a disastrous first contact with humanity in what would become known as the First Invasion. The Formics did not comprehend that any species could be sentient if it did not possess a hive-mind, assuming that a hive-mind was a prerequisite for sentience. Thus, the Formics sent a scout ship to Earth with the intent to burn it down and colonize it with a Hive Queen.[3]

On the colonization fleet's way to Earth, a Formic scout ship separated and accelerated ahead to reach the planet before the rest of the fleet, intending to terraform it.[12] By the time the scout ship had reached Earth's orbit in 87 BX, the Formics had destroyed hundreds of civilian mining ships, asteroid colonies, and weigh stations. Upon their arrival, the Formics sent landers full of terraforming crews down to China and killed millions of humans thinking they were simply animals; this became known as the Scouring of China. The First Invasion was devastating and human infrastructure throughout the solar system took massive losses.[9]

After the humans managed to destroy the Formic scout ship, the rest of the colonization fleet rearranged itself for war against what they saw as the uncommonly aggressive native life of Earth.[12]

The Second Invasion[]


The Formics engaged in battle with humans during the Second Invasion.

The Formics sent thousands of miniships to asteroids in the solar system, occupying them and using microorganisms to construct a resin-like shell around the space rocks. The Formic workers on the asteroids used bioengineered sluglike creatures to process the metal in the asteroids, using them to construct massive warships inside the rock.[5]

During the final battle of the Second Invasion, Mazer Rackham managed to destroy the Hive Queen's ship, killing her and ending the war, as the workers no longer had a mind to control them. To the Formics, this was a terrible event; a Hive Queen had never been killed before. From this action, the Formics realized that humanity was sentient, and became horrified at the hundreds of millions of deaths they had caused. Therefore, the Formics decided not to send another fleet to Earth.[3]

Unfortunately, this realization came too late, as humanity had already begun to respond to the seemingly genocidal intentions of the Formics. Immediately following the miraculous defeat of the Formics in the Second Invasion, every available warship was sent out by the International Fleet to attack the Formic's own planets, driving towards their homeworld. Due to relativistic effects, many years passed on Earth while the human fleet traveled to the Formic's home planets. Finally, they launched the "Third Invasion" -- an invasion of the Formics by humanity.[3]

The Third Invasion[]

QueensGathered Comic

The Hive Queens gathered on the surface of their homeworld in Ender in Exile (Comic Book).

The human fleets began to arrive in Formic space and conquered their planets. However, knowing that if the Hive Queens were taken out their entire army died, the Formics retreated almost entirely to their homeworld and defended it greatly, leaving their colony worlds to be relatively easy pickings.[6]

Ultimately, under the leadership of Ender Wiggin, the International Fleet defeated the Formic's fleets and arrived at their homeworld. Early on in the invasion of the Formic worlds, to destroy a formation of ships, the Molecular Disruption Device was used, and the Hive Queens instantly understood the capabilities of the weapon and never allowed their ships to get close enough together again. Despite this knowledge, the Queens stayed on their homeworld.[6] In the final battle, Ender deployed the Molecular Disruption Device against the planet itself, completely destroying it and nearly the entire Formic race[3] in what would later become known as the Xenocide.[7]

""The humans did not forgive us," she thought. "We will surely die.""
Ender's Game, page 320

However, foreseeing this course of events, the Formics had hidden away a Hive Queen cocoon on Shakespeare, a colony world they knew Ender would later visit. When discovered, the new Queen communicated to Ender the history of her race, and their mistaken attack against Earth. Ender then set out on a relativistic journey to distant worlds looking for a suitable place for the Formics to have their species reborn.[3]

Rebirth of the Formics[]

Three thousand years passed while Ender searched, until he arrived at Lusitania. There, the Hive Queen began a new Formic colony, resulting in the planet becoming home to three different species: the native Pequeninos, humans, and Formics.[7]

The Hive Queen carved a maze of tunnels beneath the ground which functioned as the new Formic city, and had massive swaths of fields tended to by Formic workers to grow crops. When Jane developed Detouring, the Formics assisted with the construction of Boxes to transport Humans, Formics, and Pequeninos to new colony worlds so they would not be annihilated again by the Molecular Disruption Device in the Second Xenocide. Thus, by 3180 AX the Formics had again spread themselves to multiple worlds so that they could never again be put in threat of extinction.[13]

Ender's Game Film[]

Formic Worker Film

Concept art of a Formic worker from Ender's Game (Film)[14].

During the film's opening scene of the Second Invasion, the Formic fleet moves like a swarm of insects, with no distinct pattern and a vast number of ships. When Mazer Rackham destroyed their central ship, which housed a Hive Queen, all the other ships stopped moving and fell down to the planet's surface below.[15]

At Ender's school on Earth, in the science laboratory where he was bullied, there seemed to be posters and diagrams of Formic anatomy, and there were numerous jars of preserved Formic organs and body parts. In fact, Ender beat Stilson with a preserved Formic limb.[15]

A scene was shown of the Formic Homeworld, with starships lifting off into orbit. Mazer explained that they were becoming overpopulated, contained on one planet, and were collecting water from comets. Ender ambushed and destroyed a Formic fleet while they were collecting water from a field of asteroids and ice.[15]


The structure where Ender found the Hive Queen cocoon.

Near the end of the movie, Ender asked about the strange design of Eros, and an officer replied that it was tunneled and carved out by Formics. After destroying the Formic Homeworld with the Molecular Disruption Device, Ender rushed out of the human base into a strange structure, finding a single egg, and a lone Hive Queen. The Queen was considerably larger than Ender, with a face reminiscent of an ant's, insect-like limbs and two huge wings.[15]


The first name for the Formics was hormigas, the Spanish word for ant. This term was given by Victor Delgado upon seeing the physical appearance of the aliens.[2]

Later, Dr. Noloa Benyawe decided on the scientific name Formics, derived from the Latin word for ant, formica.[2]

In the original novel Ender's Game, the term 'Formic' was never used, only the pejorative of Bugger.[3] In Ender's Shadow the name of Formic was first used, interchangeably with Bugger.[16] Later books use 'Formic' almost exclusively, as the more scientific term. This led to odd scenarios in the continuity of the books, such as characters referring to them as Buggers in Ender's Game, chronologically next as Formics in Ender in Exile, and again as Buggers in Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide. The film adaptation of Ender's Game uses 'Formics' exclusively.[15]

Interestingly, in-universe there is some reason given why the switch is made from "buggers" to "formics". In Ender in Exile, Abra Tolo states that "only the newcomers called them (buggers) formics". Thus, it seems that many of the veterans who fought in the Third Formic War kept using the pejorative, while those who did not made the switch to the more scientific term after the war was over.[6]

Weapons and Technology[]

Formic technology was almost solely mechanical, with no computers or electricity. The Hive Queens bioengineered organisms to perform specific tasks, like processing metal and building structures.[5]


Doilies were small, flat, bioluminescent organisms fired from the Formic jar guns. Weblike in structure, they resembled an intricately crocheted doily. However, encircled about in a clear gel as thick and sticky as tar, doilies were weapons of death. The gel acted as an adhesive when the doily struck its target. Then, upon impact, the doily released a peroxide polymer that reacted violently with the adhesive gel. The result was a contained and highly directional explosion, tearing apart a human’s spacesuit and all the bone, skin, muscle, and organs inside it.[5]


The Formics colonized dozens of planets in the years before their encounter with humanity. After they were restored on Lusitania, they colonized more worlds alongside humans and Pequeninos.[13]


For the earlier Formic colonies like Shakespeare, the Formics adapted the organisms from their Homeworld to merge with the local environment. For example, they adapted small flavorless root and leaf plants from their home planet to fit the colony's biology and grow vitamins for them.[10] By the time the Formics reached Earth, however, they had developed a new system where they would use defoliation gas on the entire biosphere of the planet, annihilating all life present. The life would then be replaced with flora and fauna from the Formic Homeworld.[9]

List of Planets[]

Pre-Formic-Human Wars[]

Post-Formic-Human Wars[]


  • In regards to whether the Formics had encountered another sentient species before Humans, the topic is only addressed once. In Ender in Exile, Sel Menach notes that "[e]volution here did not lead to intelligence—or if it did, the [F]ormics already wiped it out, along with any traces the original sentient natives might have left behind."