Space Bugs–Giant bugs make some of the scariest aliens in science fiction. Let’s compare the Bugs in Starship Troopers and the Buggers in Ender’s Game

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein features an alien race called the “Arachnids” or “Bugs.”

Cover art for Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
Cover art for Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein. Image grab from

Beware the Arachnid threat!

“The Bugs are not like us.  The Pseudo-Arachnids aren’t even like spiders.  They are arthropods who happen to look like a madman’s conception of a giant, intelligent spider.”  And they are organized!  Like ants or termites, they work together, under “the ultimate dictatorship of the hive.”

Strengths of the Bugs

The Bug warriors, controlled by a brain Bug hiding below in tunnels, fight without care, fear or mercy.  They never flee or surrender—humans are not even sure if the warrior Bugs can surrender.  They do not rescue their wounded and, if they can kill a human with their weapons, they will do so even if it means killing one of their own kind.  They are the Mobile Infantry’s most dangerous enemy!

“Their warriors are smart, skilled, and aggressive—smarter than you are, by the only universal rule, if the Bug shoots first.  You can burn off one leg, two legs, three legs, and he just keeps on coming; burn off four on one side and he topples over—but keeps on shooting.  You have to spot the nerve case and get it . . . whereupon he will trot right on past you, shooting at nothing, until he crashes into a wall or something.”

The Formics of Ender’s Game

Cover art for Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Image grab from

In Ender’s Game[Enders Game Review] by Orson Scott Card, the ant-like Formics invade Earth to colonize it.  The Formics, called Buggers by most humans, look something like giant ants.  “Though their internal organs were now much more complex and specialized than any insects, and they had evolved an internal skeleton and shed most of the exoskeleton, their physical structure still still echoed their ancestors, who could easily have been very much like Earth’s ants.”

In Ender’s Game, humans and Buggers battle in space but rarely meet face to face.  By the end of the book, we learn that Buggers and humans largely go to war because they do not understand each other.

Buggers can communicate without speech over any distance in space.[*Ansible]  So they have no language, no speech and no writing.  And humans, who do not understand this, have no way to plea for mercy or offer peace.

Strengths of the Bugs

Like the Bugs in Starship Troopers, the Buggers are directed by a single mind.  For Bugs in Starship Troopers, that mind is a “brain” Bug.  In Ender’s Game, the queen directs the Buggers.  “To them, losing a few crew members would be like clipping your nails.  Nothing to get upset about.”

What makes Buggers scary is their technology and their vast numbers.  “[T]he buggers are out there.  Ten billion, a hundred billion, a million billion of them, for all we know.  With as many ships, for all we know. With weapons we can’t understand.  And a willingness to use those weapons to wipe us out.”

Which one do you think is the most fearsome?

What other bugs, insects, and creepy crawlies have you found in science fiction?

For some more ideas, consider how arthropods evolved on Earth and how aliens could have evolved differently.

Please post your comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross