Somewhere, an Entomologist Is Crying
"NOT THE BEES. Also, Neal Adams? Has never seen what a bee looks like. It’s like someone just described the idea of a bee to him in really abstract terms and he took his best shot."
, "The Complete and Utter Insanity of Batman Odyssey
Related to Somewhere, an Ornithologist Is Crying
and Artistic License - Paleontology
, this trope covers grievous errors concerning insects and arachnids (spiders, scorpions, mites, etc.).
One common example is humans imposing inappropriate gender roles on insects
. Often, the colonies of eusocial hymenopteran insects (bees, wasps, and ants) are depicted in cartoons as having male workers, whereas in Real Life
, all the workers are female. (The "no male workers" rule applies only to eusocial insects in the order Hymenoptera, however. Termites are eusocial and they have both male and female workers.) Another example is the appearance of a blood-sucking male mosquito. Only female mosquitoes suck blood.
Then, there is the matter of spiders being able to hiss. With some species, being able to hiss is Truth in Television
, with some tarantulas (like the barking spider
). There are also varieties trapdoor spiders that hiss (you can watch this one do it
) but not all.
Perhaps the most egregious
example, though, is drawing insects with four legs instead of the correct six. This is kindergarten science, people! Kindergarten!
Another example is that, because of Small Taxonomy Pools
and the Rule of Scary
, a big arachnid that's not very dangerous in real life (such as a tarantula or an emperor scorpion
) will be treated as if it is
highly dangerous, making it a rough equivalent of the Terrifying Pet Store Rat
. Tarantulas, and the biggest species of scorpions, mainly have venoms that will have little effect on something as big as a human. The most venomous spiders and scorpions are typically quite small
. The big ones are chosen because the little ones won't show up on a movie screen and because if an animal with weak venom did end up biting anyone on the cast or crew, it would be less of a problem than if an animal with strong venom bit them.
There's also the size issue. As in you can't make a functioning invertebrate that is big enough for a human to ride upon/be eaten by/etc.
, but that never stopped anyone
Subtrope of Artistic License - Biology
. Supertrope of Insect Gender Bender
and Four-Legged Insect
. See also Funny Animal Anatomy
open/close all folders
- Insects, arachnids, crustaceans and myriapods all do not have jaws that open and close like a vertebrate's, and they do not have teeth or tongues like we do.
- While a mosquito's proboscis is syringe-shaped(Though partially covered by a sheathe), it's certainly not positioned anywhere near where the nose would be on a vertebrate.
- An arachnid's limbs are attached to the first of their two body segments (the prosoma) and the insect's the second of their three (the thorax). They are not proportioned or configured like anything remotely resembling a human or a dog.
- What most people refer to as a "wild" beehive is actually a mix between an antique bee skep and a hornet's nest. Actual wild beehives look like this◊ or this◊.
- Also, there's the common mistake of calling wasps "bees".
- Being arachnids, scorpions have eight legs (the pincers are pedipalps, which are closer to mouthparts than anything), but good luck finding one in TVland with the right number of legs. Made all the more grating because a simple Google search would clear up this misunderstanding immediately.
- An appalling number of films, stories, and Urban Legends attribute a parasitoid reproductive strategy — i.e. Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong — to arthropods that don't do any such thing, purely for Body Horror's sake. In reality, only a tiny fraction of wasps and flies breed that way, but in fiction it's often associated with beetles or spiders.
- Very often in fiction when a cockroach is needed a Madagascar hissing cockroach is used as a substitute, as they are larger than the local roaches and fairly placid. As the name suggests, they can only be found in the wild in Madagascar.
- And it's not just roaches: every scuttling insect that's not an ant may be played by a "hisser" in a pinch. Likewise, maggots, caterpillars, and earthworms (which aren't even arthropods) are commonly played by mealworms, which are beetle larvae cheaply available at any pet store.
- Pretty much everyone, in fiction and out of it, refers to every insect at some point or another as a bug. In entomology, a bug only refers to the order Hemiptera, aka "true bugs", which contains insects like aphids and cicadas.
Anime and Manga
- A filler arc of Naruto brings us "bees" that are very obviously hornets (although this is a translation error since the word 'hachi' can refer to either bees or wasps), a 12-foot beetle with a trunk (it trumpets like an elephant, too) and cockroaches which don't look or move like cockroaches.
- Pain's "centipede" summon has what's a snake head with fangs tacked onto the sides.
- Digimon with insect attributes usually have the right number of limbs (though oddly, they are often bipedal when not flying), but they also have vertebrate jaws, are definitely not covered in real chitin, and can grow to preposterous sizes. Justified in-universe as being the result of how data (and therefore the laws of physics) work in the Digital World, but it gets egregious when they enter the real world in any particular series. Rule of Cool is very much invoked.
- The manga Arachnid greatly exaggerates insect qualities for the sake of justifying the superpowers of the assassins. And unlike how all the enemies are based on a specific species, Alice jumps all over the place when analogies are made. One chapter she's an Araenid, the next she's a Salticid.
- In-story example: Spider-Man is always being called an "insect" by his foes. He always corrects them.
- For that matter, spiders don't have most of the traits that Spiderman has. They're not particularly strong for their size, they're not particularly agile and certainly don't have a quasi-mystical spider-sense. What they do have are webs, venom and being extremely hardy and Spiderman only has 1 of those naturally.
- Many comics, most notably, Grendel, like to show shots of a Black Widow in the center of its orb web looking sinister... The Black Widow Spider is a cobweb weaver.
Films — Animated
- Bee Movie has male worker bees and a blood-sucking male mosquito named Mooseblood. The insects have four legs. The bees also have parents. This is however called out in the court scene to invoke getting stung by the leads best friend to win over the court. Said be is male and survives by getting a transplant.
- A Bug's Life featured ants being bullied by grasshoppers. Real Life ants are extremely aggressive in defending their nests, and any grasshopper dumb enough to hang around an anthill would get swarmed, dismembered and eaten. And the ants had four legs, while oddly enough the grasshoppers had the accurate six.
- Antz has male worker and soldier ants.
- Averted in Winnie the Pooh where we actually get to see Pooh being stuck inside what appears to be the only accurate depiction of a wild beehive (a wall of honeycombs dangling over a pool of honey inside a hollow tree trunk) at the end of The Honey Tree. Played straight in later stories, however, where all of the bees are now shown to be living in hornet nests.
Films — Live-Action
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull averts and plays this straight. When Mutt Williams is stung by a slightly oversized emperor scorpion, this conversation ensues:
Mutt: I just got stung by one of those scorpions back there!
Indie: How big was it?
Indie: When it comes to scorpions, the bigger the better. A small one bites you, don't keep it to yourself.
- But later, the characters are attacked by a massive swarm of ants. They are Driver ants, which only live in Africa. The story is set in South America. Also, the ants are shown dragging people into their nests and forming a biological ladder out of ants just to get to a character hanging from a tree.
- Driver ants actually do form structures out of worker ants (like bridges or the bivouac, for instance). They just can't do it quite that fast. Dragging the Giant Mook back to the nest is pure Hollywood, but using the real driver ant method (slicing off pieces of flesh and carrying those back to the nest) would have made it rather difficult to avoid an R rating.
- The Brazilian translation fixed the name for an actual Amazon ant — instead of "Siafu", "Saúva" - but raised the problem of it being a leafcutter, not carnivorous like an army ant.
- Mimic makes this a Zigzagging Trope. On the one hand, they correctly note that the lack of lungs limits insect size (the insect oxygenation system was better suited to the O2-rich Carboniferous, which is why bugs got so much bigger back then). On the other hand, they fail to note that the exoskeleton is the other limiter on insect size. But then they correctly state that social insects use pheromones to identify each other...and then later make the mistake of the Judas Breed colony having no queen, but they do at least show them having a fertile male (termites also have a "king", and the Judas is part termite).
- Eight Legged Freaks: Spiders don't talk. There are a number of other aspects of the eponymous mutants that don't exactly reflect real life spiders (multiple species working together, hissing at prey, practicing kung fu), but the whole verbal expression part kind of overshadows them and the fact the movie itself is played mainly for the humor.
- Surprisingly averted in the remake of The Fly involving a mutant Jeff Goldblum/fly hybrid. Like a fly he can scale walls with his hairy sticky feet and must eat his food in liquid form (as flies cannot chew) by vomiting on it. In David Cronenberg's commentary, he says he was aware of the fallacies of the original movie (such as a fly's eye view being depicted as a kaleidoscope) even as a junior entomologist watching it in 1958.
- Salt has "milking" a spider done wrong.
- My Girl apparently featured honeybees living inside what appears to be a hornet's nest.
- The Mummy has huge swarms of flesh-eating scarab beetles. Real scarab beetles eat dung. They're also not so big that you have to shoot them or use a flamethrower on them. According to the DVD Commentary, director Stephen Sommers heard that long ago, some people thought that flesh-eating scarabs existed, and thought it was a cool idea for the film, so more of a Genre Throwback idea than anything else.
- Dr. No did it twice with spiders. First, Dr. No's dragon tried to kill James Bond by putting a very large tarantula in his bed while he slept. Even if it bit him (it didn't), it would've just hurt a lot. Later, Honey Ryder tells Bond that she killed her landlord after he raped her by putting a female black widow on his bed, and that it took the guy a week to die. She got very lucky: contrary to urban legend, black widow bites are rarely fatal to humans.
- Kingdom of the Spiders: A swarm of super-aggressive tarantulas with extra-potent venom is blamed on... The spiders' food supply being eliminated by human encroachment. So, the lack of food made the spiders multiply explosively, change their behavioral patterns (attacking humans and livestock, encasing prey in webbing) and gave them super-potent venom? Not even a mutation by toxic waste or nuclear testing handwave.
Live Action TV
- Of all shows for this to have happened on, Kratts' Creatures screwed it up by showing the view through the critter-cam goggles as a bunch of tiny pictures of the subject when set to "dragonfly". The current thinking is that the images are combined into a blurry composite image.
- In an early episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Catherine is crawling under a collapsed building and comes across a large (at least an inch and a half or so) cockroach crawling on a fallen beam. Fast forward to later in the episode where the insect is supposedly identified as a powderpost beetle.. Cockroaches and beetles are in entirely different orders and the cockroach shown on the screen was at least 10 times the size of a powderpost beetle (which is about 1/8 of an inch and much thinner). Using mammals, this would be similar to saying that a lion and a rat are comparable.
- This is really a bad case of the writers not doing their research, since though entomologists don't always know every single species outside of the family they specialize in, an entomologist like Grissom would have at least likely known enough to tell those two apart.
- One episode had a victim who was killed with Brazilian wandering spider venom and a suspect who owned a Brazilian wandering spider. The "Brazilian wandering spider" that was shown was a small black tarantula, while the real thing is gray and larger than some people's hands. Then again, the real thing is also deadly venomous and quite aggressive, so using a stand-in spider makes sense, since most people wouldn't tell the difference anyway.
- A suspect in Castle's season 2 finale claimed he spent several weeks in Afghanistan with fire ants crawling on his privates. Fire ants are native to the Americas, not Afghanistan. Possibly a subversion, however, as the guy was only pretending to be a spy, and probably wasn't an entomologist.
- Could also be Translation Convention, as ants that sting are fairly common worldwide, and "fire ant" would be a plausible English rendering of a local Afghani variety's name.
- The Big Bang Theory gave a rather interesting example, in that Entomologists would be crying over an Entomologist crying. Unlike how most scientists are usually portrayed with a sliver of respect, the resident Entomologist is whiny and depicted as a total loser whose job is so unimportant that he's being evicted. In addition, the "dung beetle" he shows is a Hissing Cockroach and he has a number of Pinktoe Tarantulas in an embarrassingly improper setup.
- Also, the only living specimens he has in his office are arachnids and millipedes, which are not insects. Not the harshest transgression, but it wouldn't have been that big a stretch to call him an "arthropodologist" instead.
- An aversion occurs in Rifts. The Coalition States, as part of its doctrine of making all of its war machine look scary, employs a number of Spider Tanks called Spider-Skull Walkers (the first generation looked like a human skull with spider legs sprouting from where the spine would be). There are currently three different varieties of Spider-Skull walker, and all three have six legs. A Running Gag for them is an editor's note appearing right after said description which states "Yes, we know spiders have eight legs." One type is built to look like a scorpion, and it has six legs, plus the pincers, suggesting that the designers were aware that a scorpion's pincers aren't really limbs (as mentioned above, in General).
- Yu-Gi-Oh! shows Traptrix Atrax's pet/true form (it's somewhat ambiguous which it is) as a giant spider using a standard orb weaver web... except that she's named for a genus of the Australian Funnel-Web Spider, a trapdoor spider that doesn't use a trapdoor on its burrow, instead favoring a system of triplines around its hole. It's not a translation issue, either, as its Japanese name is "Atra no Kowakuma", referring to either the same genus or the larger Atracinae subfamily it belongs to.
- Skansen Beanie Kids (not to be confused with Beanie Babies) released a Beanie Kid called Sting the Mosquito Bear. Aside from the fact that Sting looks absolutely nothing like a mosquito and more like an acid trip fairy, mosquitoes don't sting, they bite and suck blood (though a case can be made that 'Bite the Mosquito Bear' sounds more like an instruction than a name, and 'Suck the Mosquito Bear' just sounds wrong).
- Fallout: The series features various insects and arachnids growing to sizes that would not be physically possible, regardless of their amount of radiation exposure, along with gaining magnificent superpowers, such as being able to breathe fire. Fallout is supposed to be a parody fueled by radiation.
- The fire ants are an accidental mutation via meddling by Mad Scientist. It is explained away with the venom glands producing flammable venom that is spark-ignited by the ant clicking its mandibles together. Since when do biological exoskeletons produce sparks by friction? Even more amusing, the Mad Scientist calls the process pyrosis—that is to say, the medical term for heartburn.
- This is lampshaded early on in the first game, when a character notes that the giant scorpions should have their venom greatly diluted, but he is puzzled as to why it seems to remain just as potent.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has Giant Spiders and all the woes that this implies. This can rather easily be justified by the meddling of wizards and daedric princes, of course.
- In Guild Wars 2, the Canyon Spiders aren't actually spiders at all. They're far larger than any invertebrate could actually be, but that can be forgiven by the Rule of Cool. What they are, though, is rather faithfully modeled giant solifugids. Couldn't they at least call them "Canyon Sunspiders"?
- In Pokémon, out of at least two dozen arthropod-based Pokémon (as of Generation V), exactly two even have the right number of limbs (ladybug-based Ledyba and Ledian have six, the caterpillar-based ones vary, the rest of the insects have four, and arachnid-based ones have six). But then, real arthropods don't generally grow to human size, either (Scyther), nor can they shoot their stingers at you (Beedrill). Nor do their shed shells come to life (Shedinja).
- Not only this but we have many arthropods that fall as Bug-type. We have spiders, scorpions, centipedes, hermit crabs, trilobites and even some kind of rock mollusk.
- Warcraft III has spiders bigger than horses who release their young, two smaller (man-sized) spiders on death. And then there's the Nerubians, a race of six-limbed spider men, and their mutated beetle-like kin the Crypt Lords (who can summon four legged beetles with mandibles bigger than a human arm). Aaargh.
- In Castlevania: Mirror of Fate, the Lady of the Crypt is a gigantic insect-dragon... thing that is killed by Trevor, who tricks it into smashing open the castle gates. In Simon/Alucard's storylines (chronologically after Trevor's), the gates are still jammed open by the massive insect's skeleton. Insect's... skeleton? Looks like the Lady was more dragon than insect after all.
- One episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold has Batman trapped in a tank with giant Atlas moths which have mandibles... and are trying to attack/eat him. In actuality, Atlas moths not only do not have mandibles, they have no mouths. At all. Because when they are in the moth stage they don't feed. They survive off the fat reserves they built up as caterpillars and die when it runs out.
- And no adult moth eats fabric. They lay their eggs in closets (or did, before the invention of mothballs), and the larval moths chewed on the fabric.
- In the "Turner Classic Birdman" episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, a Reducto-shrunk Birdman contends with "a spider... with only six legs!" When he gets a call from Falcon 7 that Vulturo has stolen a hydrogen bomb and feebly insists he has to deal with this emergency first, Falcon 7 isn't sympathetic. "Let's see, hydrogen bomb... gimp spider. Hydrogen bomb or gimp spider, ooooooh...."
- Munya is supposed to transform into a spider/human hybrid, but looks much more like a red Incredible Hulk with fangs, claws and four tiny legs poking out of his back.
- Fridge Brilliance, when one acknowledges the arguments often used against the existence of giant spiders. He wouldn't be able to function if he had a more spiderlike frame, so his design instead focuses on the spider's main strengths.
- One scene from Disney's The Mad Doctor involves Mickey Mouse running into a skeletal spider. In real life, spiders, like all arthropods, have exoskeletons, and therefore do not have bones.
- The second episode of Dink, the Little Dinosaur had a fully-grown insect hatch out of a clearly-reptilian egg.
- Averted in the bees episode of The Magic School Bus: the hive is shown correctly. The show being what it is, they would've had no excuse for getting it wrong.