Insects have appeared in literature from classical times to the present day, an aspect of their role in culture more generally. Insects represent both positive qualities like cooperation and hard work, and negative ones like greed.
Among the positive qualities, ants and bees represent industry and cooperation from the Book of Proverbs and Aesop's fables to tales by Beatrix Potter. Insects including the dragonfly have symbolised harmony with nature, while the butterfly has represented happiness in springtime in Japanese Haiku, as well as the soul of a person who has died.
Insects have equally been used for their strangeness and alien qualities, with giant wasps and intelligent ants threatening human society in science fiction stories. Locusts have represented greed, and more literally plague and destruction, while the fly has been used to indicate death and decay, and the grasshopper has indicated improvidence. The horsefly has been used from classical times to portray torment, appearing in a play by Aeschylus and again in Shakespeare's King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra; the mosquito has a similar reputation.
Insects play important roles in around one hundred novels and a hundred short stories in English literature. They are used to portray both positive and negative qualities, more usually negative, including entrapment, stinging, being rapacious, and swarming. They are common in fantasy and especially in science fiction, often as the earthly or alien villains. Detective novels sometimes use insects as unexpected murder weapons. A fly on the wall is used as a voyeur to tell erotic stories in R. Chopping's The Fly, and the anonymous Autobiography of a Flea. Franz Kafka made use of the strangeness of insect metamorphosis in his novella The Metamorphosis (German: Die Verwandlung), as have several authors since.
Anthropomorphised ants have often been used in fables, children's stories, and religious texts to represent industriousness and cooperative effort. In the Book of Proverbs, ants are held up as a good example for humans for their hard work and cooperation. Aesop did the same in his fable "The Ant and the Grasshopper". Some modern authors have used ants to comment on the relationship between society and the individual, as with Robert Frost in his poem "Departmental" and T. H. White in his fantasy novel The Once and Future King.
The poet W. B. Yeats wrote The Lake Isle of Innisfree (1888) with the honey bee couplet "Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee, / And live alone in the bee loud glade", while he was living in Bedford Park, London.
Lafcadio Hearn wrote in his 1901 book A Japanese Miscellany that Japanese poets had created dragonfly haiku "almost as numerous as are the dragonflies themselves in the early autumn." The poet Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694) wrote haiku such as "Crimson pepper pod / add two pairs of wings, and look / darting dragonfly", relating the autumn season to the dragonfly. Hori Bakusui (1718–1783) similarly wrote "Dyed he is with the / Colour of autumnal days, / O red dragonfly."
The poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson described a dragonfly splitting its old skin and emerging shining metallic blue like "sapphire mail" in his 1842 poem "The Two Voices", with the lines "An inner impulse rent the veil / Of his old husk: from head to tail / Came out clear plates of sapphire mail."
I saw, once, an endless procession, just over an area of water-lilies, of small sapphire dragonflies, a continuous play of blue gauze over the snowy flowers above the sun-glassy water. It was all confined, in true dragonfly fashion, to one small space. It was a continuous turning and returning, an endless darting, poising, striking and hovering, so swift that it was often lost in sunlight.
Lafcadio Hearn's essay Butterflies analyses the treatment of the butterfly in Japanese literature, both prose and poetry. He notes that these often allude to Chinese tales, such as of the young woman that the butterflies took to be a flower. Among the brief 17-syllable Japanese Haiku poems about butterflies, of which he translates 22, one by the Haiku master Matsuo Bashō is said to suggest happiness in springtime: "Wake up! Wake up!—I will make thee my comrade, thou sleeping butterfly." Another compares the butterfly's shape to a Japanese silk upper-dress, the haori, "being taken off". A third says they look to be girls of "about seventeen or eighteen years old." Hearn retells, too, the old story of a man who dies after 50 years alone, having mourned his sweetheart Akiko daily all that time. As he dies, "a very large white butterfly entered the room, and perched upon the sick man's pillow." The man smiles in death. "Then it must have been Akiko!", says an old woman who knew him.
Insects have repeatedly been used in literature as strange or alien beings. Sir John Tenniel drew a famous illustration of Alice meeting a caterpillar for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, c. 1865. The caterpillar is seated on a toadstool and is smoking a hookah pipe; the image can be read as showing either the forelegs of the larva, or as suggesting a face with protruding nose and chin. H.G. Wells wrote about intelligent ants destroying human settlements in Brazil and threatening human civilization in his 1905 science-fiction short story, The Empire of the Ants. He made use of giant wasps in his 1904 novel The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth:
It flew, he is convinced, within a yard of him, struck the ground, rose again, came down again perhaps thirty yards away, and rolled over with its body wriggling and its sting stabbing out and back in its last agony. He emptied both barrels into it before he ventured to go near. When he came to measure the thing, he found it was twenty-seven and a half inches across its open wings, and its sting was three inches long. ... The day after, a cyclist riding, feet up, down the hill between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, very narrowly missed running over a second of these giants that was crawling across the roadway.
In 1917 the ghost story author Algernon Blackwood wrote An Egyptian Hornet, about a beast at once alarming and beautiful: "From a distance he examined this intrusion of the devil. It was calm and very still. It was wonderfully made, both before and behind. Its wings were folded upon its terrible body. Long, sinuous things, pointed like temptation, barbed as well, stuck out of it. There was poison, and yet grace, in its exquisite presentment." The story contrasts the reactions to the threat of the churchman, the Reverend James Milligan, and the "depraved" Mr. Mullins.
Devouring plagues of locusts are mentioned in literature throughout history. The Ancient Egyptians carved locusts on tombs in the period 2470 to 2220 BC, and a devastating plague is mentioned in the Book of Exodus in the Bible, as taking place in Egypt around 1300 BC. Plagues of locusts are also mentioned in the Quran.
The Impertinent Insect is a group of five fables, sometimes ascribed to Aesop, concerning an insect which may be a fly, gnat, or flea, and which puffs itself up to seem important.
In the Biblical fourth plague of Egypt, flies represent death and decay. Myiagros was a god in Greek mythology who chased away flies during the sacrifices to Zeus and Athena; Zeus sent a fly to bite Pegasus, causing Bellerophon to fall back to Earth when he attempted to ride the winged steed to Mount Olympus.
One of Aesop's Fables, the tale of The Ant and the Grasshopper. The ant works hard all summer, while the grasshopper plays. In winter, the ant is ready but the improvident grasshopper starves. Somerset Maugham's short story "The Ant and the Grasshopper" explores the fable's symbolism via complex framing.
Other human weaknesses besides improvidence have become identified with the grasshopper's behaviour. So an unfaithful woman (hopping from man to man) is "a grasshopper" (Russian: Попрыгунья, romanized: Poprygunya), an 1892 short story by Anton Chekhov, and in the films called The Grasshopper by Samson Samsonov (1955) and Jerry Paris (1970) based on that story.
The Ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus has a gadfly pursue and torment Io, a maiden associated with the moon, watched constantly by the eyes of the herdsman Argus, associated with all the stars: "Io: Ah! Hah! Again the prick, the stab of gadfly-sting! O earth, earth, hide, the hollow shape—Argus—that evil thing—the hundred-eyed." William Shakespeare, inspired by Aeschylus, has Tom o'Bedlam in King Lear, "Whom the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame, through ford and whirlpool, o'er bog and quagmire", driven mad by the constant pursuit. In Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare likens Cleopatra's hasty departure from the Actium battlefield to that of a cow chased by a gadfly: "The breeze [gadfly] upon her, like a cow in June / hoists sail and flies", where "June" may allude not only to the month but also to the goddess Juno who torments Io; and the cow in turn may allude to Io, who is changed into a cow in Ovid's Metamorphoses.
The physician and naturalist Thomas Muffet wrote that the horse-fly "carries before him a very hard, stiff, and well-compacted sting,[a] with which he strikes through the Oxe his hide; he is in fashion like a great Fly, and forces the beasts for fear of him only to stand up to the belly in water, or else to betake themselves to wood sides, cool shades, and places where the wind blowes through." The "Blue Tail Fly" in the eponymous song was probably the mourning horsefly (Tabanus atratus), a tabanid with a blue-black abdomen common to the southeastern United States.
Mosquitoes have been part of oral lore, and even of told jokes, and from folklore pronouncing the origin of the mosquito, and depicting its relation to a "blood-sucking monster" contemporary work has been written and illustrated. The Tlingit legend "How Mosquitoes Came to Be" expresses the never-ending torment inflicted by the mosquito.
Nearly every element in the universe may be thus personalized, and even the least of these such as tiny Chipmunk and those little insect helpers and mentors of deity and man in the myths, Big Fly (Dǫ’ soh) and Ripener (Corn Beetle) Girl (’Anilt’ ánii ’At’ ééd) (Wyman and Bailey 1964:29–30, 51, 137–144), are as necessary for the harmonious balance of the universe as is the great Sun.
Why the mosquito hates smoke
Apitherapy is a branch of alternative medicine that uses honey bee products, including honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom. Proponents of apitherapy make claims for its health benefits which are unsupported by evidence-based medicine.Flea circus
A flea circus is a circus sideshow attraction in which fleas are attached (or appear to be attached) to miniature carts and other items, and encouraged to perform circus acts within a small housing.Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera is a large order of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees, and ants. Over 150,000 living species of Hymenoptera have been described, in addition to over 2,000 extinct ones.Females typically have a special ovipositor for inserting eggs into hosts or places that are otherwise inaccessible. The ovipositor is often modified into a stinger. The young develop through holometabolism (complete metamorphosis)—that is, they have a worm-like larval stage and an inactive pupal stage before they mature.Lafcadio Hearn
Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (; Greek: Πατρίκιος Λευκάδιος Χερν; 27 June 1850 – 26 September 1904), known also by the Japanese name Koizumi Yakumo (小泉 八雲), was a writer, known best for his books about Japan, especially his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories, such as Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. In the United States, Hearn is also known for his writings about the city of New Orleans based on his ten-year stay in that city.
Born in Greece to a Greek mother and an Irish father, a complex series of conflicts and events led to young Lafcadio Hearn being moved to Ireland, where he was abandoned first by his mother (leaving him in the care of her husband's aunt), then his father, and finally by his father's aunt, who had been appointed his official guardian. At the age of 19 he was put on a boat to the United States, where he found a job as newspaper reporter, first in Cincinnati, Ohio, and later in New Orleans. From there he was sent as a correspondent, first to the French West Indies, where he stayed for two years, and then to Japan, where he would remain for the rest of his life.
In Japan he married a Japanese woman with whom he had four children, and became a naturalized Japanese citizen. His writings about Japan offered the Western world a glimpse into a largely unknown but fascinating culture.Moth
Moths comprise a group of insects related to butterflies, belonging to the order Lepidoptera. Most lepidopterans are moths, and there are thought to be approximately 160,000 species of moth, many of which have yet to be described. Most species of moth are nocturnal, but there are also crepuscular and diurnal species.