[[quoteright:350:[[Film/SpyKids http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/R_A_L_P_H__6200.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:Definitely one of the [[CuteMachines cuter examples]].]]

->''They had a bug in the appropriate conference chamber -- literally a fly on the wall.''
-->-- ''Literature/UseOfWeapons''

So, you know how we call the TrackingDevice a bug, since we all tend to speak American and are therefore too lazy to say more than one syllable?

This is what happens when a clever writer realizes that hey, maybe it actually ''can'' be a bug! A [[NinjaPirateZombieRobot robot]] bug, with cameras and [[FrickinLaserBeams laser beams]]! Awesome! You can even replace the SciFi with {{Magic}}, if need be.

All of this on top of the fact that bugs themselves are rather unobtrusive, and people don't usually shriek in horror when there's just a random bug hanging around, [[HiddenInPlainSight minding its own business]]. And whereas people might begin to get suspicious if the telephone sprouted helicopter blades and [[IncrediblyObviousBug followed them into the next room]], an insect flitting from wall to wall is entirely uninteresting. As a result, they tend to be both cool and practical. It's hardly surprising that this trope appears in ScienceFiction, {{Fantasy}}, and [[ScienceFantasy everything in-between]].

If someone does -- usually out of sheer force of habit, rather than suspicion -- swat the bug in question, expect anyone in headphones on the other end to get a [[SensoryOverload painful dose of screeching feedback]].

This trope isn't just restricted to fiction, either--it turns out that [[http://www.technologyreview.com/computing/22039/?nlid=1733&a=f actual beetles]] can be manipulated in such a way that they work as great surveillance, although full applications of this are still in the works. These studies also discredit one common appearance of this trope--robotic bugs. It turns out that they're CoolButImpractical, since making them work pretty much requires that scientists make them as much like actual beetles as possible.

All of which gives a whole new meaning to [[{{Documentary}} "Fly on the Wall"]].

Subtrope to AnimalEspionage.


* In ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'', Shino Aburame gives orders to the bugs that live in his body, and can have them perform surveillance (they communicate with him by flying in pattern to form words) or track (he puts a female bug on his target and then has male bugs find it by scent).
* There's a bard in ''LightNovel/ScrappedPrincess'' who learned to control swarms of robotic bugs running on LostTechnology and uses them, among other things, for spying on people.
* There is one in ''Anime/YuGiOh'', property of bug-themed Weevil Underwood.
* Baikinman's team uses a spider-shaped electronic bug (ehh... right) in an ''Soreike! Franchise/{{Anpanman}}'' movie (it was either ''Ruby no negai'' or ''Yumeneko no kuni no Nyanii''). Apparently Baikinman got over his hatred of spiders when he transformed into one in ''Baikinman no Gyakushuu''.
* We have these to thank for the entire Android / Cell Saga in ''Anime/DragonBallZ''. After Goku defeated the Red Ribbon army, Doctor Gero had bee-sized robot bugs running surveillance on all Goku's battles except for those on Namek. This allowed Gero to a) calculate the growth of Goku's abilities so he knew how strong to make the androids, and b) collect DNA samples from human and alien fighters [[LegoGenetics to make Cell]].
* Tiny robot bugs with a large field of vision show up in both ''Manga/{{Arachnid}}'' and its spinoff ''Caterpillar'' to spy on the ongoing battle royales. This is but a sample of the setting's fixation on bugs.

* Comicbook/SpiderMan's spider-tracers. Whose signal he picks up with his spider-sense, in fact.
* In ''Comicbook/AstroCity'', although Jack-In-The-Box [[PassingTheTorch trains a replacement]] due to familial obligations, he follows the new Jack with a remote-controlled flying spy camera and provides him with [[VoiceWithAnInternetConnection real-time situational updates.]]
* In ''Comicbook/TheMightyThor'' #357-8, the villains' secret base has an insect infestation that's actually a swarm of Literal Surveillance Bugs created by their own GadgeteerGenius, who is working with them unwillingly and wants to know what they say when he's not around.
* ''ComicBook/TheSimpsons:'' An early issue has the FBI keeping watch on Mr. Burns via one of these, until Smithers notices it.
-->'''Mr. Burns:''' Oh, worried about bugs, are we? I eat bugs for breakfast. ''Let them eat static!''
-->'''FBI Agent:''' It... it's still working. I can hear chewing and swallowing.

* In ''Fanfic/GameTheoryFanFic'', Megane primarily uses her [[SummonMagic summoned insects]] for discrete surveillance.
* ''Fanfic/StarlightOverDetrot'' has the Ladybugs - Magically constructed out of parasprites and a host of other things, they can telepathically share information across their HiveMind, and to anyone wearing one of the bugs.
* ''Fanfic/TheNewAdventuresOfInvaderZim'' features Zim spying on Dib with one of these in the first chapter.

* R.A.L.P.H. (imaged above) the ''Robotic Arachnid Lithium Photo Helper'' from the ''Film/SpyKids'' series.
* ''Film/TheDarkCrystal'' had surveillance ''bats''.
* One popped up in the 2008 remake of ''Film/GetSmart'', where Bruce and Lloyd capture a small robotic fly.
* The Spyders in ''Film/MinorityReport'' are four-legged robots which invade people's homes to do a retina scan for identification. Those who don't open willingly will be shocked until they comply.
* A cockroach (with a really obvious set of surveillance gear strapped on its back) in ''Film/TheFifthElement''. Leading to a hilarious moment when the President squashes it (thinking it is just a bug) and the man listening receives the noise of the strike many times louder plus feedback.
* ''Film/TheMatrix'' has the tracking device Smith places in Neo's body. When it's about to be surgically removed from Neo's body, Trinity explains to him, "We think you're bugged."
* Mooch the Fly from ''Film/GForce'' (2009).
* The bird in ''WesternAnimation/TheIncredibles''.
* ''Film/GIJoeRetaliation'': Firefly's robo-fireflies, which also double as anti-personnel explosives.

* The Literature/{{Animorphs}} would frequently morph bugs for surveillance purposes.
* [[spoiler: Rita Skeeter]] in the ''Literature/HarryPotter'' books can actually transform into a bug, and uses said ability for exactly this purpose. In this instance, it's a learned skill, albeit one that is supposedly regulated by wizarding law. Hermione was set on the path to discover this fact by Harry talking about "bug" in the usual surveillance sense.
* ''Literature/DeceptionPoint'' by Dan Brown has the spy bugs used by Delta Force.
* This is part of the PalantirPloy in ''Literature/{{Abarat}}''--the Midnightian Royal Family has robot spy-bugs and spy-birds and spy-who-knows-what all over the place. Candy actually beats one up once, to prevent it from hurting [[MamaBear the child of the kind lady who gave her shelter.]]
* One features in the opening chapter of Creator/RogerZelazny's ''Literature/LordOfLight''
* A Danny Dunn book (science fiction for '60s youngsters) has this for a plot -- the eccentric scientist invents a dragonfly that can be remote-controlled by virtual reality, and three kids get hold of it and use it for their own purposes (mostly tormenting the local bully, but also spying on crooks).
* The clockwork "spy fly" in ''Literature/HisDarkMaterials.''
* In ''[[Literature/TheNightsDawnTrilogy The Neutronium Alchemist]]'' by Creator/PeterFHamilton, an intelligence agency is using biotech spiders to spy on a radical group. Realising what's happening the group arranges for gangs of local kids to squash every spider in sight as a game.
* In Literature/PandorasStar, also by Peter F. Hamilton, [[AlwaysGetsHisMan Paula Myo]] and her team use modified insects to spy past privacy shields that scramble any electronic attempts at spying.
* In the Literature/LiadenUniverse novel ''Fledgling'', Win Ton catches an insect-like device spying on the Delgado party (though it is referred to as a "spying device" as the parties discussing it apparently do not use the colloquialism "bug").
* In the first ''Literature/StarTrekTitan'' book, the Romulan Tal Shiar (their state intelligence agency) use tiny crawling robotic bugs to eavesdrop on a closed meeting of Romulan and Federation dignitaries. The devices are discovered only afterwards, but do prove useful in a later mission (in the next book of the series).
* The ''Literature/ArtemisFowl'' series has [=ARClights=], genetically-engineered dragonflies carrying biotech cameras, created by [[GadgeteerGenius Foaly]].
* Rune uses the magical variety in the ''Literature/{{Relativity}}'' story "Rune Returns... Again".

* There was a fly "bug" in development in the original ''Series/GetSmart,'' but Max (of course) thought it was a real fly and swatted it.
* In ''Series/TheXFiles'' episode "War Of The Coprophages", Mulder stumbles upon a swarm of methane-powered robotic alien space probes disguised as roaches who have been conducting research on a small town in New England. Because they have a tendency to swarm over the recently-dead in order to collect samples, the townsfolk erroneously believe them to be responsible for the deaths and mass hysteria over killer cockroaches ensues.
* Flying robotic bugs were used by MegaCorp Vex-Cor in ''Series/CharlieJade''.
* Skylar in ''Series/{{Alphas}}'' makes these.
* In one episode of ''Series/TheDresdenFiles'' TV series Harry used a spell to make some bees into these: it involved having them sting his ear so he could hear what they heard.
* ''Series/StarTrekVoyager''. In "Lifeline" the EMH goes to visit his creator, hologram expert Dr Zimmerman, and finds himself being bothered by a buzzing fly (as per usual for this trope, he ends up swatting it despite being a hologram himself).
-->'''Barclay:''' Oh that's Roy.
-->'''EMH:''' Don't tell me -- another hologram?
-->'''Barclay:''' It was developed for Starfleet Intelligence; an experiment in micro-surveillance.
* Non-sci-fi example: VeronicaMars once planted a bug inside a paperweight of a beetle.

* ''TabletopGame/{{Champions}}'' adventure ''Deathstroke'' (1983). The villain group The Destroyers use spy devices disguised as insects to guard their hidden base.
* The Loyalty Roaches from ''TabletopGame/FengShui'''s 2056 juncture are how the Buro keeps its eye on its citizens. The watered-down "environment-safe" insecticides common in 2056 don't do dick to them, but the ones in the contemporary juncture, which are obviously banned by the Buro, do a bang-up job on them.

* In one mission of ''VideoGame/Sly2BandOfThieves'', the team rigs a beetle into a survailance bug, with LampshadeHanging.
* The Humongous Entertainment ''SpyFox'' games have Walter Wireless the Tracking Bug, a Walter-Cronkite-impersonating bug whom Spy Fox drops into the bad spy's purse, or whatever. He gives news reports on the villain's status while riding with them.
* In the ''[[SamAndMax Sam & Max]]'' games by Telltale, there was a literal talking bug with a DrillSergeantNasty voice. Apparently he was in Vietnam too.
* ''VideoGame/CallOfDutyBlackOps2'' has you deploy a spider-like bug named Ziggy during the Colossus mission, [[DoAnythingRobot equipped with a camera, microphone, wall-climbing capabilities, hacking equipment and a short ranged stun device]].
* The Beetle serves this function in ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaSkywardSword''. Not only does it allow you to retrieve small items and press unreachable switches, an upgrade also allows it to carry larger objects (pots, bombs, etc.), and subsequent upgrades provide it a longer range and the ability to accelerate.
* ''TooHuman'': a CyberPunk adaptation of Myth/NorseMythology, turns [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huginn_and_Muninn Huginn and Muninn]] into robotic birds with zoom-lens eyes.
* James Bond's Q-Spiders in ''VideoGame/EverythingOrNothing''. They're variously equipped with explosives, tranq-darts, invisibility cloaks, and missiles (used only once).

* Hinted at in ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'' #770 when a prisoner in the Empire of Blood says about having been captured after escaping:
-->"I don't know what tricks they're using to find me yet… my current theory is that they've bugged my bugs."
* Part of LBB's function in ''Webcomic/AgentsOfTheRealm''. LBB stands for Ladybug Bot and Jade uses it to search for both Agents and bleeds.
* ''Webcomic/WildeLife'' has spiders act as watchers, heralds, and if need be defenders, in the name of [[spoiler:the White Faced Bear]].

* Not only bug-shaped but also with a cloaking field in "Ayla and the Tests" of the Literature/WhateleyUniverse. You have to be really sneaky to get past other genius inventors.
* In ''{{Literature/Worm}}'', Taylor eventually learns to interpret the data from the bugs [[MinionMaster which she controls]]. Even one or two bugs in a room are enough for audio surveillance to some extent, and just [[ParanoiaFuel consider how many insects are around you]] ''[[ParanoiaFuel right now.]]''
** Even before that, she could keep track of where the bugs were. [[DownplayedTrope While this didn't allow for precise intelligence, it allowed her to track people within her power's range and determine the layout of an area.]]

* Mechanicalles made some of these in WesternAnimation/AladdinTheSeries.
* The Monarch uses butterflies like this in ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers'', although you can't help but wonder why no one notices that butterflies are, in fact, The Monarch's whole supervillain theme. It helps, of course, that as far as Dr. Venture is concerned The Monarch is an UnknownRival.
* Vlad Plasmius uses mechanical bugs that resemble him to spy on the Fentons in ''WesternAnimation/DannyPhantom''.
* The Predacons in ''WesternAnimation/BeastWars'' sometimes use these.
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Wakfu}}'', [[BigBad Nox]] uses these for both surveillance and to gather [[LifeEnergy wakfu]] from all over the world.
* When spying on Global Justice and ''WesternAnimation/KimPossible'', Gemini uses robotic Fly-On-The-Wall cameras, which often lose signal because people keep swatting and breaking them. When interrogating his underlings about the signal loss, they mention that when people see things that look like flies, they swat. Gemini [[YouHaveFailedMe never takes this advice reasonably]].
* One of the later DIC-season episodes of ''WesternAnimation/GIJoe'' had many high-ranking Joes under suspect for being TheMole since Cobra always seemed to have strategic intel that was only discussed in very confidential meetings. After investigation, none of the Joes present was found to be a spy, but General Hawk always brought his favorite cookies to the meetings and Cobra programmed a collection of robotic cockroaches to seek these cookies out.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles2012'', Donatello has been known to make "spy roaches" by outfitting ordinary cockroaches with cameras and somehow controlling their actions via remote control. Raphael, who hates cockroaches, [[WhyDidItHaveToBeSnakes doesn't approve]], especially after one of them [[OhCrap mutates and holds a grudge against one of Raphael's freak-outs]].
* ''WesternAnimation/YogisTreasureHunt'': One episode features Dick Dastardly using one to find out where the good guys will go to search for the treasure of the week. Someone swats it without realizing what it was but Dick is satisfied because it at least lasted long enough to fulfill its purpose.
* ''WesternAnimation/InchHighPrivateEye''. In "Super Flea" the invention of this trope [[JobStealingRobot threatens to put the miniscule private detective out of a job]].
* ''WesternAnimation/SpecialAgentOSO'' has a tiny ladybug-like robot called Shutterbug.

* For those interested in how this trope is being applied in RealLife, [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMhrSwatSiE some]] [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSCLBG9KeX4 YouTube]] [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8l_n8SgfwL4 links]] for your perusal.
* Alleged first example of some kind of this trope would be CIA's project to implant a microphone and a radio in a cat (fun fact: the antenna was going through the tail). Thus created spy-cat would have been given to persons of interest as a inconspicuous gift. Then, during field tests, first ever spy-cat was run over by a car in minutes since its release, and the project was scrapped.
* The [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insectothopter Insectothopter]], a 1970's bug disguised as a dragonfly.