Entomopathogenic fungus as well as their toxins is a natural threat surrounding social insect colonies. To defend against them, social insects have evolved a series of unique disease defenses at the colony level, which consists of behavioral and physiological adaptations. These colony-level defenses can reduce the infection and poisoning risk and improve the survival of societal members, and is known as social immunity. In this review, we discuss how social immunity enables the insect colony to avoid, resist and tolerate fungal pathogens. To understand the molecular basis of social immunity, we highlight several genetic elements and biochemical factors that drive the colony-level defense, which needs further verification. We discuss the chemosensory genes in regulating social behaviors, the antifungal secretions such as some insect venoms in external defense and the immune priming in internal defense. To conclude, we show the possible driving force of the fungal toxins for the evolution of social immunity. Throughout the review, we propose several questions involved in social immunity extended from some phenomena that have been reported. We hope our review about social ‘host–fungal pathogen’ interactions will help us further understand the mechanism of social immunity in eusocial insects.
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