Enders Game Buggers Descriptive Essay

Spoiler warning: Plot details follow.

The Formics were an advanced space-faring alien species. Although they were officially named Formics (from the Latin word for ant),[1] the aliens were nicknamed Buggers by humans due to their insect-like appearance.[2] The core parts of the Formic race were made up of Hive Queens, male drones, and workers.[3] The whole species shared a hive mind, so the loss of individual workers did not concern them.[4]

The Formics killed over 40 million humans during the First Invasion of the Formic Wars[4] 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.[2]

During the Third Invasion, Ender Wiggin used the Molecular Disruption Device on the Formic homeworld, destroying the planet and all the Hive Queens on it; thus almost killing off the Formic species in its entirety.[2]

Before their demise, the Hive Queens hacked the Mind Game in Battle School in an attempt to communicate with Ender Wiggin.[2] 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.[5]

The Formics re-created their civilization 3,000 years after their destruction on the planet Lusitania,[6] and later colonized other planets using faster-than-light travel.[7]


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.[2]


Also known as soldiers, Formic workers were about four feet tall and had six arms. Their skin was mainly red, with some 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.[8]

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.[1]

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.[7]

Hive Queens

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.[7]

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.[7]

The Hive Queens were capable of telepathic communication among the rest of the Queens.[2] The Queens were the only Formics capable of laying eggs, after mating with the male drones.[3]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.[7]

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.[4] On various planets, including Shakespeare, Gold Bugs and other metal-processing creatures were used to mine resources for the Formics.[5] The Hive Queens created creatures that could build near-indestructable hulls for use in Formic scout ships, as well as some that built and could repair resin shells around Formic-occupied asteroids, like 2030CT.[4]

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.[4]


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.[3]


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.[7]

The First Invasion

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.[2] 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.[9] By the time the scout ship had reached Earth's orbit, 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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[4]

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.[2]

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.[2]

The Third Invasion

Ultimately, under the leadership of Ender Wiggin, the International Fleet defeated the Formic's fleets and arrived at their homeworld. In the final battle, Ender deployed the Molecular Disruption Device against the planet itself, completely destroying it and nearly the entire Formic race[2] in what would later become known as the Xenocide.[6]

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.[2]

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.[6]

Ender's Game (Film)

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.[10]

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.[10]

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.[10]

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.[10]


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.[1]

Later, Dr. Noloa Benyawe decided on the scientific name Formics, derived from the Latin word for ant, formica.[1]

In the original novel Ender's Game, the term 'Formic' was never used, only the pejorative of Bugger.[2] In Ender's Shadow the name of Formic was first used, interchangeably with Bugger.[11] 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.[10]

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.[4]


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.[4]


  1. Unaware
  2.'s Game
  3. in Flight
  4. Swarm
  5. 5.05.1Ender in Exile
  6. for the Dead
  8. 8.08.1Earth Afire
  9. 9.09.1Earth Awakens
  10.'s Game (Film)
  11. Ender's Shadow

The final chapter of the book begins with Graff and Anderson, speaking much more casually than they have in the past. Graff has survived his court martial trial, where the prosecution attempted to prove that Ender was a killer. Ender watched, and learned that he killed both Stilson and Bonzo. What he cannot understand is why the deaths of the bugger queens do not matter to anyone. To him they are crimes just like Stilson and Bonzo's deaths. On Eros Ender does his best to help out, although ironically no one thinks he can be of much use in peacetime. He learns to suggest ideas through others, since he does not care about reputation but merely getting things done. Valentine comes to him and tells him that Peter is in control of the earth and that he can never go home. Ender realizes that Peter would use Ender if Ender ever returned to earth. She is going on the first colonization ship to the bugger worlds and wants Ender to come along—he is to be governor of the first colony if he agrees. Ender does not want to populate worlds whose owners he killed. Valentine sees that he thinks she is trying to manipulate him and tells him that no one has a free life to live, so the least he can do is choose a path put forth by one who loves him. Ender decides to go, but tells her that the reason is to try to repay the buggers by learning about their past.

The colony travels to the new world and settles down. The people begin to live new lives there, and they are not concerned with what is happening back on Earth. New ships will be coming with other colonists and Ender goes off to find a place for the new colony to settle in. It is then that he stumbles upon landscape that is all too familiar—the giant's corpse and all of his images from the mind game. He follows them to the tower and climbs up to the room with the mirror. Ender realizes that the buggers must have built all of this for him in order to leave him some sort of message. Behind the mirror Ender finds the pupa of a bugger queen, and the queen communicates with him. She shows him the images of the battles, from the buggers' point of view, and then sends images to his mind of what he needs to do to let her live again and start a new bugger civilization. Ender figures out that they learned his thoughts through the ansible—it was, after all, a human attempt at mimicking bugger communication—and built this place because he was the only one they knew and the only one who could understand. She tells him that the buggers did not know that humans were thinking beings. When the buggers figured out that human beings were capable of thought, they did not attack again.

Ender writes a book based upon the knowledge he gathers from the queen, telling the entire bugger history, especially their sorrow that the two races could not understand each other, and signs it SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD. The readers of the book form something of a religion on earth, but on the colonies, where people live in worlds that the buggers lived in, the teachings of the book become a veritable religion. Ender speaks to Peter once (who is now in his seventies because the relativistic ride that took two years for the colonists was fifty earth years), and his brother tells him his story. Ender writes this up in a book as well, signs it with the same title, and the two books are the basis of the religion. Finally Ender convinces Valentine to fly with him to different worlds. He is looking for a place to start a new bugger civilization, and his search lasts many years.


Valentine provides Ender with the final word on manipulation. People are always manipulated, all that they can choose is whose path they will follow. Ender will never be able to live his own life; in fact, there is no such thing as living one's own life without others' influence. Ender leaves with Valentine because at least once he gets to the bugger world he will be on his own. Peter will not be able to control him there, and he can attempt to understand better the race that he destroyed. When he finds the bugger queen Ender understands that the buggers know him very well, and that they understood that he did not hate. They knew that his compassion would be strong enough for him to help them. Even the buggers manipulate Ender, since they get him to dedicate his life to finding them a new home. The difference is that Ender has taken Valentine's advice and has chosen to follow the path that he wants to be on anyway. In this way Ender is able to finally win back his freedom, because, although he is on a mission that another race left for him, it is the mission that he wants to be on. The buggers understood Ender better than anyone else, because they saw his thoughts, and so they know not only that will he help them but that he wants to help them.

In the end it is Ender's empathy that wins out. He is perhaps the only human being who would be willing to listen to what the bugger queen has to say, and empathy is the same trait that allows him to destroy the buggers. Ender was right when he told his sister that after he understands his enemy, and before he destroys them, he loves them. Now there is no war to be fought, and he does not have to destroy someone else's enemy. Ender is free to understand and to love, and that is why he agrees to help the buggers find a new home. He has to make up for the crimes that he committed. Graff and Rackham thought that they were doing what needed to be done, and that the necessities of war meant they had no choice but to trick Ender into fighting, but Ender now knows that they were wrong. All of mankind was wrong. The buggers did not want to fight and would have been willing to communicate. They do not blame humans for killing them, but Ender blames himself because he always knew in his heart that there had to be a way other than war with other sentient beings. All of the manipulation that Ender had to endure was to win a war that never needed to have been fought, and this deeply troubled Ender's soul. Now, with the bugger queen, he has a chance to undo his wrongs and bring back the consciousness that he wiped out, and there is no one else to tell him what to do. Ender is finally free, and with his freedom he must make up for all that he did while under someone else's control. Valentine was right when she told him that his life would never be his own, but it is only when acting fully of our own volition, even if on a path prescribed by another, that we are truly free. It took years and billions of deaths, but Ender Wiggin has won his freedom, and he has still retained the compassion that will let him use that freedom to help make up for the crimes of his past.

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