According to Ender Canon, Mazer Rakham won a Second Formics Invasion by figuring out the pattern and finding and destroying the Bugger Queen's ship.

But as we find out later:

  • There are OTHER Bugger Queens

  • They can all communicate via philotic connections

  • This communication is instanteneous across any distance.

So, given this:

why wouldn't some other Queen monitor the invasion as a backup and switch control over once the main invasion Queen's ship was destroyed by Rakham?

I'd prefer an in-universe answer or at least an authoritative (e.g. from OSC) one, not a pure speculation with no basis in source material.

My guess is that the backup wouldn't have worked because the philotic connection only worked (or at least was effective) between a Queen and her own progeny, so another Queen couldn't take over. But that theory is not backed up by any source material I recall.


4 Answers 4


The reason is that the other bugger queens were stunned in disbelief that a queen would be deliberately attacked in the first place.

To them, loss of individual buggers was meaningless, and it never occurred to them that the humans did not feel the same way. Anything that wasn't a queen was simply a mindless tool, to be discarded at will.

When the humans deliberately targeted a queen, the other queens realized that they had made a mistake, and stopped all aggression against the humans.

However, by that point it was too late, for now the humans were on their way. All future aggression was on the part of humans attacking the buggers.

This was explained in later books, possibly as early as Speaker for the Dead, as it was this understanding given to him by the larval Queen that prompted him to write The Hive Queen.

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    @DVK Once the queen is destroyed, the invasion was called off. The humans destroyed the rest of the fleet because they were not fighting back - the other queens do not see any need to preserve them, especially at the potential cost of more human lives.
    – so12311
    Commented Oct 29, 2011 at 14:01
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    @DVK the whole point of the invasion is to establish the colony for the queen. If the queen dies, the point of the invasion dies. The idea of a "backup" queen is as foreign to them as speech.
    – Beofett
    Commented Oct 29, 2011 at 14:08
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    @Beoffet - As far as "other queens realized that humans are intelligent" - is there anything in the books confirming that this happened immediately after Mazer Rakham's strike blew up the queen? Because if it wasn't immediate then your answer can not be correct, whereas if it was immediate then your answer is 100% right. Commented Oct 29, 2011 at 16:18
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    @DVK why would a queen with an established colony need to move? It's only new queens who need to establish colonies. They dont seek territory for the sake of having more territory; only so each queen can have room for her colony. The Hive Queen of Lusitania refuses to leave because Lusitania is hers, even though the planet may be destroyed. As for when the queens came to that conclusion, I'll check my books later and see if I can find confirmation.
    – Beofett
    Commented Oct 29, 2011 at 16:50
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    @Beofett I love the breadth of information on that descriptoin. Near the end of Children of the Mind, when the Little Doctor launch is imminent, she basically says she can't leave her Friend Rooter. Chapter 14, Children of the Mind: Besides, she told herself, how could she bear to live when her great friend, Human, was rooted to Lusitania and could not leave it? It was not a queenly thought, but then, no hive queen before her had ever had a friend.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 20:58

The queen with the colonizing fleet is a juvenile queen so she couldn't have produced all the drones for the invasion. That means one queen can control other queens' drones and/or other queens were controlling the drones during the invasion.

When Mazer killed the colonizing queen by targeting her, he proved that Earthlings had intelligence far beyond what the Formic imagined. Once the Formics realized that they made a mistake about the intelligence of the Earthlings they stood down. They were in effect surrendering, and saying we made a mistake trying to colonizing you. We'll leave you alone. That is why they immediately stopped fighting. That is also why the Third Invasion never came. The Formics wanted to act honorably towards the Earthlings once they realized their mistake. This is also what they communicated to Ender.

They felt sorrow for what they had done. They also wanted to understand humans and express that sorrow/regret, which is why they connected with Ender. Ender's understanding through that connection with the Formics is what gave him the empathy/understanding to become the Speaker for the Dead.

Here is the quote where the Formic Queen hoped that humanity would forgive the Formics for their actions (emphasis mine):

What the hive-queen felt was sadness, a sense of resignation. She had noth thought these words as she saw the humans coming to kill, but it was in words that Ender understood her. The humans did not forgive...

The next page it is more explicit that the Formics didn't view humans as sentient beings, just like we don't view plants as sentient beings. Emphasis mine in the following:

We are like you the thought formed in his mind. We did not mean to murder, and when we understood we never came again. We thought we were the only thinking beings in the universe until we met you, but never did we dream that thought could arise from the lonely animals who cannot dream each other's dreams. How were we to know? We could live with you in peace. Believe us, believe us, believe us.

So as you can see the Formic Queen was trying hard to convince Ender that they didn't know they were killing sentient beings. Once they realized humanity was sentient they stopped their plans to colonize our solar system. Of course this might be some sort of elaborate mind game to trick Ender into saving their species so they can fulfill their dreams of conquest. I don't think that is the case though because the author used the changed mindset this experience gave Ender as the basis for the sequel and a new positive religious movement. Furthermore to my knowledge the Formics never again are featured as a threat in any subsequent books after Ender reseeds the Formics.

You can verify the quotes in photos I took of the pages present in a previous edit.

  • While I like this answer, I don't think it's on point... the fact that the drones are catatonic after the young Queens death? Because the other Queens choose to "give up"? If they wanted to show acquiescence, wouldn't it have been better for those Queens to have those Buggers (In/Around Eros) pack up and drive the ships away in retreat? Realizing Humans are different but sentient - and feeling remorse for killing - doesn't signify that they had control of the buggers around Eros and left them...
    – WernerCD
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 15:34
  • @WernerCD Perhaps that was a standard way of surrendering. Maybe retreat is a more aggressive maneuver because it would be interpreted as trying to retain more drones for a counter-attack. Maybe they thought that allowing us to kill their drones would be penitence for the human deaths they caused. Maybe they wanted the drones there so they could use them to communicate with humanity once they figured out how we communicated. Etc. Not asserting control doesn't mean they couldn't if needed. The question really is why didn't they continue fighting. This answers that question. They didn't want to.
    – Erik
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 15:51

Having read WernerCD's answer, I came up with a similar theory of my own, but don't recall canon quotes to support it.

The connection between the queen and her drones is based on philotic twining.

As such, other queens would not be able to instantly philotic-twine with the drones of a killed queen - it's not a process as simple and instantaneous as re-routing a TCP-IP connection. Instead, it's gradual - the Lusitania books explain it for humans, e.g. a human who associates with another human (family) would gradually philotically twine with them.

  • Well, "They are now tied to a dead brain" - I didn't mention the twining, but that's basically what I was alluding to :) I wouldn't think that the buggers twine like we do - slowly and chaotically. I imagine theirs is done during gestation or at birth. IIRC there are passages that talk about how those who lose the twining are shunned and die.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 15:33

I would venture to say that although queens can communicate with each other, there is nothing that says a queen can control another queens drones.

A Queen is a brain. She has thousands of children. Those children are part of Her. Her drones are Her hands and feet.

Unless I've missed it somewhere, I've never read that one Queen can control another Queen's drones. When the brain dies, the arms and legs die. When a queen dies, her drones are leaderless - even if there is another brain in the universe. They are tied to the now dead brain.

It would be akin us talking brain to brain. Just because I can read your brain - and we can think at the speed of light - doesn't mean I have ANY control over you. I don't move your hands and feet while you are alive... I sure won't move them when you are dead. We can think together - and since we know each other intimately, we would theoretically come to the same conclusions what what each of us should do. But even tho we both agree I should walk, if I die you can't keep my feet moving since they are attached to me.

(I'm currently rereading Xenocide... I know there is more discussion of Bugger Life as the books progress, but I'll have to keep an eye open for any indication that Queen A can control Queen B's drones, which I don't recall reading before)

  • I like your answer ... combine it with the notion of "rogue drones" and the notion that "queens are only checkmated, not killed". When the Q dies, most of her drones just go catatonic (that's what the humans found out when they boarded the 2nd invasion ships). But ... what if some of them gain/regain individuality? That's got to give the other Qs the creeps; it'd be like zombies to them.
    – akaioi
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 2:24
  • @akaioi I'd have to research, but I remember their being some conversation about how 'individual' drones - those who have stopped following orders and aren't connected/are more weakly connected - get cut off from food, supplies, etc and die.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 15:41

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