Insects in Literature, Film, Poetry, Pop Culture
May 21, 2014 2:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to remember as many notable instances of bugs in books (and film and other media) as possible--help me compile a creepy-crawly compendium, please?

Bugs in Books are ideal, but any instance of insects in art / the public imagination would be great: infest my brain please!

For example:
Kafka's Metamorphosis
Burroughs' Naked Lunch
Estrin's Insect Dreams
The Fly in the original and the remake
the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still
the Wachowskis' The Matrix
Coupland's Generation A
Lispector's The Passion According to G.H.
Hage's Cockroach
posted by Edna Million to Media & Arts (72 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
John Donne's The Flea (link)
posted by kariebookish at 2:27 PM on May 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Bug Park - book
Them - movie
posted by Sophont at 2:28 PM on May 21, 2014

As an insect loving child I have fond memories of the book Shoebag, where a cockroach turns into a little boy!
posted by foxfirefey at 2:28 PM on May 21, 2014

Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach
posted by jessicapierce at 2:30 PM on May 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Lots of examples in children's lit, e.g. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White and The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden.

The X-Files: War of the Coprophages (3x12)

Buffy: What's My Line Parts I and II (2x9 and 2x10) and Teacher's Pet (1x4)
posted by a fair but frozen maid at 2:32 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Angels and Insects (based on Morpho Eugenia)

How about bug-like aliens? Obvious examples are District 9 and Ender's Game (at least the first two books in the series)
posted by methroach at 2:33 PM on May 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I highly recommend The Cockroaches of Staymore, by Donald Harington.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:34 PM on May 21, 2014

The Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland.
posted by vacapinta at 2:35 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do arachnids count? If so, then Spider-Man anything, and also myths involving Arachne.

Also--I just remembered Leiningen vs. the Ants.
posted by methroach at 2:37 PM on May 21, 2014

Archly and Mehitabel!
posted by mlle valentine at 2:38 PM on May 21, 2014

Jiminy Cricket/The Talking Cricket from the film/book versions of Pinocchio/The Adventures of Pinocchio.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:38 PM on May 21, 2014

Awesome, thank you, keep 'em coming! I've also seen this question: Seeking Mystery Novels for a 10 Year Old Who Loves Bugs, but I am a little more interested in texts for adults.
And yes please to bug-like aliens, insectile robots, and swarms of all sorts!
posted by Edna Million at 2:40 PM on May 21, 2014

Mary Howitt, "The Spider and the Fly"

Emily Dickinson, "The Spider as an Artist," "The spider holds a Silver Ball," and "A Spider sewed at Night"

Shelob from LOTR and the spiders from The Hobbit.

The scrael from Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicle novels.
posted by a fair but frozen maid at 2:42 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Archy and Mehitabel

Joe's Apartment (link is to short film, also became a feature)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar


Plus the giant spiders in the Hobbit and Harry Potter
posted by Mchelly at 2:42 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

The butterflies in Lolita.
posted by jessicapierce at 2:42 PM on May 21, 2014

In animated films:
Mr. Bug Goes To Town
A Bug's Life
Bee Movie
posted by Small Dollar at 2:43 PM on May 21, 2014

Oh, and Dickinson's "I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –"

There are flies buzzing all over the Marshalsea prison room where Amy Dorrit is born in Dickens' Little Dorrit.
posted by a fair but frozen maid at 2:47 PM on May 21, 2014

the movie My Girl had a very upsetting scene of a kid getting stung to death by a swarm of hornets.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:51 PM on May 21, 2014

I get the impression that you're going for more elevated art forms here, but there's a pop-up book called How Many Bugs in a Box that absolutely charmed me as a kid. Even now that I'm an adult I'll grab it off the shelf when I'm home at christmas and leaf through it. It's just so freaking cute.

Oh look, someone's put a video of it up on youtube!
posted by phunniemee at 2:52 PM on May 21, 2014

A pleasant example: The children's book The Bugliest Bug by Carol Diggory.
An unpleasant example: The movie Bug (1996).
posted by sacrifix at 2:55 PM on May 21, 2014

Oh, there's also the Aesop's Fable the Ant and the Grasshopper.
posted by phunniemee at 2:57 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's a list, skewing toward poetry, including cites to Gilgamesh and the Iliad.
posted by a fair but frozen maid at 2:59 PM on May 21, 2014

The Brady Bunch episode with Harvey Klinger.
posted by Melismata at 2:59 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Raiders of the Lost Ark (giant spiders on adventurer's backs)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (the deathtrap with the cockroaches)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:05 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh man, all the locusts in the bible!
posted by jessicapierce at 3:07 PM on May 21, 2014

Empire of the Ants- a novel; turns out there is a fairly schlocky looking film of the same title too.
posted by jojobobo at 3:12 PM on May 21, 2014

Sam's Sandwich (children's book, but very cute)
The Cure's video for "Lullaby," as well as their song "The Caterpillar"
All the bug-eating challenges on Survivor
posted by SisterHavana at 3:13 PM on May 21, 2014

And Mr Bookish contributes:
Phase IV (1974 film)
China Mieville's Bas-Lag trilogy
Robert Burns' poem To a Louse
posted by kariebookish at 3:20 PM on May 21, 2014

How about those awesome giant insects in Perdido Street Station?
posted by janey47 at 3:30 PM on May 21, 2014

Whoops, I see Kariebookish beat me to it (Perdido Street Station is book 1 of the bas-lag trilogy).
posted by janey47 at 3:30 PM on May 21, 2014

Miniscule for the win!
posted by taff at 3:34 PM on May 21, 2014

The butterflies in Nabokov's Ada.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:50 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

The bugs in the mouth of the victims in Silence of the Lambs.

The Lady Clock butterfly in Jane Eyre
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:01 PM on May 21, 2014

Barbara Kingsolver loves bugs. There's the swarm of ants in The Poisonwood Bible, plus Flight Behavior is all about monarch butterfly migrations and Prodigal Summer has a whole storyline about moths and pheromones (I think that section is titled 'Insect Love', but it's been awhile).

posted by theweasel at 4:04 PM on May 21, 2014

Guillermo Del Toro's Mimic is about giant mutant cockroaches that pass themselves off as humans!
posted by cazoo at 4:19 PM on May 21, 2014

Check out the Bruce Sterling story The Swarm, if you like the alien variety of bug.
posted by Kafkaesque at 4:22 PM on May 21, 2014

The beetle tied to a nail in the desk of the school girl in The Wicker Man (1973).
posted by mean square error at 4:29 PM on May 21, 2014

Perdido Street Station involves a girlfriend with a scarab for a head!
posted by chatongriffes at 4:30 PM on May 21, 2014

Edward Gorey's The Insect God
The Woggle-Bug from The Marvelous Land of Oz and subsequent Oz books
posted by baf at 4:46 PM on May 21, 2014

the Crash Test Dummies had a song from the perspective of a worm on their album "A Worm's Life"
posted by janey47 at 4:57 PM on May 21, 2014

the "worm" is only mentiond in one line:

That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”
And its hero, the Conqueror Worm.

But is described here (since you said creepy crawly):

But see, amid the mimic rout,
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes!—it writhes!—with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.

The Conqueror Worm by Edger Allan Poe

I hope this counts.
posted by IfIShouldEverComeBack at 4:57 PM on May 21, 2014

The Amityville Horror has swarms of flies.

Stephen King's The Mist has giant flying insects.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:07 PM on May 21, 2014

Butterflies flit throughout many of Nabakov's books.
posted by brappi at 5:20 PM on May 21, 2014

The excellent Lives of Insects by Victor Pelevin
posted by velebita at 5:32 PM on May 21, 2014

Does non-fiction count? There are many insects in Gerald Durrell's wonderful memoir My Family and Other Animals, some of which become pets of the young narrator.
posted by Naanwhal at 5:57 PM on May 21, 2014

Incognitio Mosquito?
posted by Coatlicue at 5:58 PM on May 21, 2014

Invasive Species is a recent zoological thriller featuring wasps as the central threat. I haven't read it, but the plot reminds me of a TV movie that scared me as a kid, even though it was terrible: Killer Bees.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 6:39 PM on May 21, 2014

"boris the spider" by the who
posted by bruce at 7:27 PM on May 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

the old outer limits episode "zzzzzz"
posted by bruce at 7:28 PM on May 21, 2014

numerous gary larsen "far side" cartoons. perhaps my favorite was the cockroach pitching in a baseball game, who had already lost a couple of legs, and the manager was telling him "you lose one more, i'm taking you out."
posted by bruce at 7:37 PM on May 21, 2014

The last scene of Psycho.
posted by southern_sky at 8:01 PM on May 21, 2014

Antmusic, Ants Invasion
posted by scody at 8:12 PM on May 21, 2014

Small Arguments is an amazing book of poetry, mostly about bugs and other artifacts of nature. The writing is just beautiful; you won't regret picking this up. And I'm not just saying that because the author is a friend/acquaintance. :)
posted by foxjacket at 8:35 PM on May 21, 2014

Richard Marsh's The Beetle (which is only occasionally a beetle per se...)

Renfield and his "pets" in Dracula

Some weird insect-related stuff goes on in Dan Simmons' Drood
posted by thomas j wise at 8:38 PM on May 21, 2014

Annie Dillard's heart-wrenching account of the Antheraea polyphemus moth in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

Sob. Oh sob.

“The mason jar sat on the teacher’s desk; the big moth emerged inside it. The moth had clawed a hole in its hot cocoon and crawled out, as if agonizingly, over the course of an hour, one leg at a time; we children watched around the desk, transfixed. After it emerged, the wet, mashed thing turned around walking on the green jar’s bottom, then painstakingly climbed the twig with which the jar was furnished..."

I'll stop there. Sob.
posted by beanie at 9:13 PM on May 21, 2014

Songs about insects
Songs about bugs

Raul Seixas - Mosca No Soba (I am the fly that lands in your soup...")
Pere Ubu - A Small Dark Cloud

The children's book Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears?
The Secret Life of Bees
The Beekeeper's Apprentice
The 19th century erotic novel The Autobiography of a Flea

posted by hydrophonic at 9:14 PM on May 21, 2014

Books: Animal farm, Creatures Great and Small,

Movies and books: Ants, Old Yeller, Watership Down, Marley and Me
posted by Jewel98 at 9:15 PM on May 21, 2014

Check out anything written by Children's Author Eric Csrl
posted by Jewel98 at 9:17 PM on May 21, 2014

"You Bright and Risen Angels", a novel by William T. Vollmann.
posted by Petersondub at 11:15 PM on May 21, 2014

The insect pit scene from the King Kong remake was awful in a number of ways.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:20 PM on May 21, 2014

Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
posted by TheRaven at 11:49 PM on May 21, 2014

There are giant wasps (no... bigger than that...) in Keith Roberts' SF novel The Furies.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 12:18 AM on May 22, 2014

Surprised nobody's mentioned the Wasp Factory yet.
posted by tinkletown at 3:04 AM on May 22, 2014

Spiders in the movie Arachnophobia.
Various bugs in the Supernatural episode Bugs.
posted by rawrberry at 6:33 AM on May 22, 2014

The Gold-Bug by Edgar Allan Poe. Apparently, Orson Scott Card and Richard Powers have also written stories with this title.
posted by Rash at 8:07 AM on May 22, 2014

Oh man, all the locusts in the Bible!

Also in Terrance Malick's "Days Of Heaven" -- from the film's Wikipedia page:
To film the scene with the locusts, where the insects rise into the sky, the film-makers dropped peanut shells from helicopters. The actors had to walk backwards while running the film in reverse through the camera to achieve the effect. When it was projected, everything moved forward except the locusts.
But beware, no actual locusts present in The Day of the Locust.
posted by Rash at 10:05 AM on May 22, 2014

The Roaches Have No King, Daniel Evan Weiss.
posted by 8603 at 2:47 PM on May 23, 2014

I'm not marking best answers because these have all been terrific, exciting texts: thanks so much everyone! I'll have bugs on the brain for ages yet!
posted by Edna Million at 1:16 PM on June 23, 2014

No mention yet of Suzanne Collins' Gregor the Overlander (The Underland Chronicles)? The only time I felt genuinely sad (maybe even teary) about the death of a giant roach.
posted by pimli at 9:44 AM on October 1, 2014

« Older How to survive a low-iodine diet (difficulty...   |   The past is the past right? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.