Flies Equals Evil


"You got flies."
Leonard Smalls, Raising Arizona

In many works, especially horror movies, the first thing that indicates something going nasty is the arrival of flies, mosquitoes, wasps, maggots, and other creepy crawlies. Bonus points are earned if they are seen entering or emerging from a sleeping protagonist's mouth, nose, and ears. Generally linked to demons and ghosts, but might just be a symptom of something more natural like decomposition.

This trope has its roots in Beelzebub being "Lord of the Flies", and other Satanic connotations. Alternatively, it may be linked to the Ten Plagues. Or simply to decay and death.

See also The Swarm and The Worm That Walks, when the bugs are not only an indicator of evil, but are actually used as a monster directly, and Evil Smells Bad.


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     Anime And Manga  

  • In Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas, the Specter Nasu Veronica is heavily associated to flies, controlling a horde of them to attack his enemies. He claims that the flies that descend upon a corpse do it in order to devour its soul before it can pass on to the afterlife.

     Card Games  

  • Though Dark is Not Evil, and the protagonists to Kamigawa, Zendikar, and Innistrad are black, in Magic: The Gathering, black mana is associated with death and parasitism, and one black creature type is insect, specifically carrion eaters.

     Comic Books  

  • Shows up in Hellblazer #1 ("Hunger") and #2 ("Feast of Friends"). Mmemoth, a demon of hunger, manifests as a swarm of flies when it is unwittingly unleashed onto New York City.
  • Marvel Comics has a supervillain called The Swarm. He's a villain whose body is made of swarming bees.
    • Did we mention The Swarm was formerly a Nazi?
  • In Swamp Thing a possessed man has a halo of flies.
    • This is the calling card of The Rot in general, and Arcane in particular. Despite technically being part of The Red, flies are so close to the rot that they're infamously untrustworthy.
  • In the Blackest Night, billions of Black Lantern Rings travel together through the universe. They're described by characters as sounding like swarming buzzing flies.


  • Zippoorwhill's nightmares at the beginning of chapter 8 of Sleepless.


  • The Ring. One is plucked out of a television image.
  • In Constantine, Beeman has a fly crawl out from under his eyelid as a sign of demonic attack upon him. He's later found dead with flies covering him and crawling out of his mouth.
  • Poltergeist. The titular ghosts cause a steak to be suddenly covered with maggots.
  • Drag Me to Hell had a fly following the protagonist around for much of the film. It both entered and exited her mouth and nose, as well as landing on the camera.
  • In Raising Arizona, Leonard Smalls informs Nathan Arizona he has flies, but Nathan insists this is impossible, due to his office being climate controlled. Still, Leonard catches one between his fingers. They seem to be following him around.
  • Another similar Coen brothers example: In Barton Fink, the title character has a mosquito problem, in spite of everyone informing him this is impossible, as Los Angeles is a desert.
  • In The Sorcerer's Apprentice, evil sorceror Hovrath turns into a swarm of flies as a means of transportation.
  • In Australian horror film Primal, a tiny bug lands on a protagonist early on, and a swarm of them is found in a broken bottle near the campsite. The night before the real menace appears, another character gets sick and the group prepares to take her to a hospital, but it turns out more swarms have managed to eat the wheels of their minivan.
  • The flies in See No Evil have made a nest inside the main antagonist's head and one always appears before he attacks.
  • In the film Grace, flies are attracted to the baby. So much that the mother puts netting over the crib and hangs fly paper all over the nursery.
  • In Men in Black, the enemy alien is not only a cockroach himself, but he has hundreds of them (his offspring) living inside his clothes. Every minute or so, one of them comes out, to the disgust of any human who sees it.
  • Averted in the film version of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. There are flies everywhere in this movie, but it seems to be some kind of visual running gag, rather than to have any metaphorical meaning.
  • In The Last Witch Hunter, the Witch Queen's main weapon is The Swarm of Plague Flies, ugly bugs that spread Black Death.


  • In The Amityville Horror, flies swarming around during the height of winter was a sign of paranormal activities taking place.
  • Lord of the Flies, of course.
    • Further a reference to Ba'alzevuv, or Beelzebub.
  • The Man with the Scarlet Eye in Swan Song sends flies out to search for Sister and the glass ring and report back to him. They do.
  • In the short story "Father Hugh and the Deadly Scythe" by Mary Monica Pulver, the eponymous priest decides which of three suspects killed a man with a scythe by observing which scythe a group of flies, described by Father Hugh as the creatures of Beelzebub, choose to settle upon. The murderer confesses in terror before he remembers that flies are attracted to fresh blood, which they would find on a murder weapon.
  • Subverted in the Cthulhu Mythos short story The Disciple by David Karr Kirtley. The Obviously Evil professor running the 'special class' has the ability to make flies buzz in formation around him, which the students regard as a sign of his formidable occult powers. When Cthulhu himself turns up, the protagonist realises that they are the flies to this Eldritch Abomination. The professor, it turns out, doesn't have formidable powers. The whole thing is a sting operation so that Miskatonic University can get rid of potentially dangerous people.
  • In the Isaac Asimov short story "Flies", one character is always being followed by flies. Another investigates why, and discovers he's a possibly-amnesiac Beelzebub in human form.

     Live-Action TV  

  • In Supernatural, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Pestilence, is surrounded by flies. Justified, since flies are often vectors of disease (pestilence).
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Heaven Sent", the Doctor is stalked through a shifting castle by "the Veil" - what appears to be a walking corpse swathed in rags and surrounded by flies. It reflects one of his earliest nightmares: when he was young, he was at the funeral of an old woman. They covered her up, but couldn't keep the flies away.

     Tabletop Games  

  • In Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy flies are associated with the Chaos God Nurgle. In fact, the symbol of Nurgle is actually a stylized fly, the three spheres representing its head and wings (which also makes it look like a biohazard symbol). When the Plague Marines of Nurgle invade a world, the interior of their ships gets filled with millions of flies that are released when they land. Even when they use teleportation, enough flies are carried with them to blot out the sun.
  • In the official Champions setting, one of the symbols of the Pulp-era Satanic conspiracy group the Order of the Seven is a scarlet housefly.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, the Baali clan of demonologists had a specific sect called the Avatars of the Swarm. These are especially notable for breeding thousands of ghouled flies within them, and using living humans as farms. They embrace by force feeding humans handfuls of flies, bloated with their blood. Nasty.


  • BIONICLE: Nui-Rama, especially under the influence of Infected Kanohi.
  • While not truly evil, Blow Fly from The Trash Pack is a boorish slop that is fairly rude to his friends.

     Video Games  

  • A sound akin to the buzzing of a swarm of flies is used to represent great evil/madness in the soundtrack for Eternal Darkness.
  • In Fable, if the player-character falls to the evil end of the Karma Meter, he'll be followed by a swarm of flies, in addition to sprouting horns.
  • In God Hand, Belze transforms into a huge fly-like being with his face situated between the eyes for his boss fight.
  • In Resident Evil 6, Simmons' final form is a gigantic fly that serves as Leon's Final Boss after he absorbed dozens of zombies.
  • In The Binding of Isaac, flies are a very common enemy, and several other monsters vomit flies or otherwise summon them.
  • Recurring Shin Megami Tensei character Beelzebub is a demonic fly the size of a tank wearing a skull necklace and holding a skull scepter, just in case the evil part was too subtle.
  • In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night one of the bosses is Beelzebub, lord of the flies, who's strung up on gigantic meat hooks. Most of his attacks involve spreading grubs and flies.
  • Dungeon Keeper has large sapient flies who tend to work as minions for the very evil dungeon keepers.
  • The text-based game Anchorhead opens with "a fly buzzing around here somewhere." this is also how it ends, and the ending implies that it isn't really over at all.
  • Averted by Brittle in Best Fiends, she's one of the heroes.
  • Morgai Flies from Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (and a tiny part of the original novels) are a strain of carrion fly tainted by Sauron's evil. They are horrendously voracious and have the sigil of the flaming eye on their backs. You use their nests as booby traps by shooting them down on Orcs/Uruks, where they go all "Bee Afraid" on them.

     Web Original  

  • The Global Guardians PBEM Universe has a supervillain named Swarm who can turn herself into a horde of cockroaches. The sheer horror of the transformation has driven her insane and turned her into a cannibalistic serial killer.

     Western Animation  

     Real Life  

  • Although never done with malevolent intent, some flies' tendency to burrow both in the bodies of living creatures (warning, massive amounts of Squick) as well as dead ones, especially in third-world countries, as well as their ability to spread disease, makes their association with evil by human cultures Justified. Subverted by specially bred (ie, laboratory bred, thus sterile) maggots, which are often used as a last-line of defense against wounds infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria, they would only eat dead flesh but leave healthy tissue alone. Do Not Try This at Home: this only applies to the maggots of some species; others are much less discriminate in their dining habits and will happily snack on either living or dead tissue, and there are even some that only eat living tissue.

Alternative Title(s): Parasite Infested Evil