Frustrated ants, flies on the windscreen and hungry caterpillars: insects in books, films and music

Despite the grimness of the global pandemic, Spring is in the air, bringing flowers, sunshine and, of course, insects. Here are some examples of bugs in literature, films and popular music. If you’re wondering about the lack of spiders, it’s because they’re not really insects…


  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl follows a little boy and his insect friends as they have adventures while escaping James’ bug-hating aunts.
  • Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka is a short story about a man who wakes up to find he has turned into a giant insect. I always thought it was specifically a cockroach but this seems open to interpretation, and possibly it doesn’t matter anyway.
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is self-explanatory. If you haven’t read this picture book, I won’t spoil the ending for you.
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll famously includes a rude caterpillar who smokes a hookah while sitting on a mushroom.
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, unsurprisingly enough, has flies in it.
  • The Bees by Laline Paull is a bit like The Handmaid’s Tale, but with bees. It’s weird and slightly gross.
  • The Railhead trilogy by Philip Reeve includes a species called Hive Monks composed of bugs. Individually the bugs are not intelligent, but together they’re strong. Hive Monks cover themselves up with robes and masks so as not to freak people out too much.


  • Antz follows the journey of a frustrated worker ant called Z as he falls in love, goes to war and finds his place in the colony. For a children’s film it’s unusually violent and shows the aftermath of a battle with the termites.
  • A Bug’s Life was released the same year as the above (1998) but is more conventionally child-friendly. The protagonist is a clumsy but good-hearted ant called Flik. The villains are the grasshoppers.
  • Bee Movie is another CGI children’s film. It has the bees suing the human race for stealing their honey. It shows the effects of what happens when bees stop working.
  • The Fly is a horror film in which teleportation goes wrong, turning a scientist gradually into a terrible fly-creature.
  • Pinocchio is the classic Disney film with the character Jiminy Cricket having an important role as Pinocchio’s ‘conscience’. I never really recognised Jiminy as a cricket, partly because I’d never seen a cricket and partly because he doesn’t much look like one.
  • Men In Black features a giant alien bug who crashed to Earth in a flying saucer. He looks like a cockroach and wears the skin of a farmer as a disguise. He gets especially angry when someone kills an insect.


  • ‘Ugly Bug Ball’ is a song from Disney’s 1963 film Summer Magic (no, I haven’t seen it either, but it’s on a compilation album I have). A lonely caterpillar is persuaded by his insect friends to attend a dance and they all have a wonderful time.
  • ‘Antmusic’ by Adam and the Ants is a 1980 song which implores us to turn away from the usual jukebox fare and try ‘antmusic’, i.e. the music of Adam and the Ants. We are also advised not to tread on ants.
  • ‘Buggin’ Me’ by True Steppers ft. Dane Bowers was popular when it was released in 2000. It’s not about insects as such, but the word ‘buggin’ is used to describe someone who is pestering, like a bug that keeps flying around your face. Like this song, actually.
  • ‘Fireflies’ by Owl City is a hit from 2009, with lyrics that make little sense, about ‘ten million fireflies’ which ‘fill the open air’ and ‘leave teardrops everywhere’. Catchy song, though.
  • ‘Fly on the Windscreen’ by Depeche Mode is an atmospheric 1985 song which has the message that death is all around us, so we might as well have sex because we too could meet our end at any time, like flies on a windscreen.
  • And here are a few bug-tastic music videos: ‘Breathe’ by The Prodigy, ‘Life’s What You Make It’ by Talk Talk, ‘One Caress’ by Depeche Mode, ‘Digging in the Dirt’ by Peter Gabriel, ‘Between Angels and Insects’ by Papa Roach.

Image: from one of Edward Lear’s limericks.

8 thoughts on “Frustrated ants, flies on the windscreen and hungry caterpillars: insects in books, films and music”

    1. I’m not really a fan of insects but I recognise their importance in the eco-system 😉
      My compost bin has a lot of ants and worms at the moment…

  1. Lord of the Flies, I had to study that for GCSE, I wasn’t a fan of that book at the time. I still remember where or rather what the flies were buzzing around. I’ve not heard of a couple of the books you mention, am intrigued by The Bees and The Railhead trilogy. By the way, I love that dancing image, lol 🙂

    1. I studied Lord of the Flies too! Not exactly a fan of the book but obviously it was thought worthy to be on the curriculum of millions of students. I think you might like the Railhead trilogy 🙂
      Do you like Edward Lear? His cartoons and poems are charming and a bit wacky.

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