"Oh no, not the bees! Not the beeeeeeeeesssssss! ARGGHHHHHH! They're IN MY EYES! MY EYEEEEEES!"What's worse than one big man-eating monster? A whole hell of a lot of little ones. With monsters, bigger is not always better. Sometimes tiny can be terrifying if you have overwhelming numbers working for you. Nature has plenty of examples of this and many of them have found their way into the movies. Swarming bees, ants, locusts, piranha, etc. have all frightened moviegoers. Sci-Fi and Horror have added swarming terrors that go beyond things found in the back yard. The promise of nanotechnology also has a dark side. Microscopic machines rampaging across the countryside disassembling everything they encounter in their quest for raw materials with which to bolster their numbers is the latest paranoid fantasy. Alien creatures brought back to Earth because they were tiny and thought safe can multiply at prodigious rates to become a ravening horde consuming everything in their path. The Swarm can also ramp up the horror by having the tiny critters invade the bodies of their victims through any convenient orifice so the victim can be consumed from the inside out. Some variants of this trope, namely Spider Swarm and Swarm of Rats, have their own pages. Sometimes overlaps with Hive Mind if all the swarm share one mind. Alternately a Mind Hive controlled swarm serve as Animal Eye Spies to one external controller. If they take a humanoid form, they could be The Worm That Walks. Tactics typically take the form of the Zerg Rush. Often found in a Hornet Hole. When they are aliens then its also a Horde of Alien Locusts. When a swarm's sudden appearance frightens characters and audience, yet turns out to be harmless, it's a Bat Scare. If the horde consists of Nanomachines, then it's Grey Goo. Not to be confused with The Swarm, which does feature a swarm of killer bees.
— Edward Malus, The Wicker Man (2006)
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Anime & Manga
- Biomeat has these BMs that can attack in swarms. They could call each other and gang up on prey.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has Lutecia's Insekt, the only one of her bug summons that doesn't fall under Big Creepy-Crawlies. They are, however, always summoned in droves during combat.
- Kimba the White Lion has a swarm of locusts as a Monster of the Week that tried to eat the animals' farm and its 2009 TV-special takes things to the next logical step by introducing carnivorous locusts.
- Eureka Seven has the Skub Coral Antibodies which spawn when the command center is attacked by the big bad's oribiting laser cannons. They don't seem particularly intelligent but can cause massive amounts of casualties.
- Similar to the paranoid schizophrenics example in Truth in Television below, Rena Ryuguu hasn't, as it is all a delusion caused by the Syndrome, maggots in her veins during the Atonement Arc. This leads her to claw at her wrists and neck - and she won't stop until they're all gone. She also had this problem when she contracted Hinamizawa Syndrome in Ibaraki, before the story even started, meaning she's had this happen at least once in every arc. And while we only see a few at a time during the main part of the arc, Rena's earlier description/flashback of the first time shows them literally flowing out.
- Shino Aburame from Naruto is an example similar to the Lutecia one above. His (and most, if not all of his clan's for that matter) abilities consist of manipulating a swarm of chakra-eating parasitic insects that he houses within his own body. Needless to say, it's never pretty when they find their next meal.
- The characters of Hotarubi No Tomoru Koro Ni are attacked by a huge swarm of blood-sucking flies in chapter 3. HUMAN-FACED flies. They're actually dead people reincarnated as blood-thirsty monsters.
- Magic: The Gathering:
- Quite a few cards are meant to reflect this trope, but the Slivers do it best. In general terms, for each Sliver in play, all Slivers in play get stronger, whether just more powerful and tougher, or gaining new abilities.
- The original Magic Swarm is Plague Rats, whose power and toughness were both equal to the number of Plague Rats in play. Long after the Obvious Rule Patch that limited copies of a single card to 4 per 60-card deck, they made an updated version called Relentless Rats.
- In Kryptonite Nevermore, Superman has to save Lois Lane and several persons from a horde of ants. This would usually not be a problem, but he is gradually getting weaker and he cannot come near from the group because he is afraid of infecting Lois with some strange illness.
- Swarm, the Nazi Made Of Bees, appeared once as a vast supercolony and was promptly taken out by the Thunderbolts.
- This is essentially how Ultimate Galactus works, though scale is a bit off as every member of the swarm is the size of Taipei 101 and their victim is an entire planet.
- The Flea from PS238 has the power to control insects, and he's used this as an offensive weapon on several occasions, though not to this trope's usual level, as he is limited to what's actually in the area and can get there fast.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- The page quote comes from Nicholas Cage's character in The Wicker Man (2006), where Edward is subject to the bee mask by the villagers.
- Irwin Allen's The Swarm has a swarm African killer bees terrorizing Texas.
- In The Mummy Trilogy there are rivers of carnivorous scarabs which the main characters get fairly good at avoiding, but others are not so fortunate.
- Every Indiana Jones film has had a large swarm of disgusting creepy-crawlies to torment Indy, his love interest, and anyone else following him. The first film had snakes, the second insects and other bugs, the third rats and the fourth giant ants.
- In The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Horvath pulls a move similar to that in the aforementioned Mummy Trilogy: he can shapeshift into a swarm of insects that form a rough human-shaped outlined before morphing back into himself.
- Batman Begins:
- The Scarecrow and his fear toxin. In several induced hallucinations, the victim sees worms crawling out of the Scarecrow's eyes and mouth.
- In the same film, the bats summoned by Batman to provide cover against Scarecrow's goons and the police for him to get Rachel out of Arkham.
- Ben 10: Alien Swarm: Yeah the title can't make it any clearer for ya. Said swarm coming coming from alien nano-chips.
- The Birds. With birds.
- They Nest featured some sort of African species of cockroach arriving on a Maine island, and burrowing in peoples' abdomens. They swarm their victims at several points.
- The Last Witch Hunter has the Witch Queen using Plague Flies to spread Black Death. When they're let loose, the swarm is big enough to blot out the skies.
- The big action set piece at the end of The Good Earth has all the peasants in a Chinese village lighting bonfires in an attempt to save their crops from an enormous swarming horde of locusts.
- Halo: Nightfall's feral Lekgolo worms are a little bigger than the usual example, but otherwise fit perfectly. They can even combine into giant colonies to take down small spaceships.
- Prey: Michael Crichton's 2004 thriller on collectively adapting swarms of nano-machines programmed with predatory behavior, eventually reveals that they can self replicate using specialized E. Coli colonies, AND they can slip through cracks, vents, even your pores. What could possibly go wrong?
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Straight Silver, when Ghosts are traveling through a tunnel behind enemy lines, they are swarmed by rats. Although none of them are killed, most are bitten, and one, overrun, was bitten several times and deeply horrified.
- The War Against the Chtorr. The shambler trees are host to an entire ecology of carnivorous symbiotes who swarm when they sense the vibrations of nearby prey.
- The German novel Der Schwarm which translates literally into The Swarm features the Yrr, a collective of one-cell beings that live in the deep sea and can combine into intelligent beings. They try to eradicate humanity for destroying the environment.
- In the Courts of the Crimson Kings. The Rodents of Unusual Size are this way, shocking the protagonist who'd assumed that meant unusually large size — not small, voracious and existing in vast numbers.
- The Edge Chronicles: Wig-wigs. They're small. They're fluffy. They have huge mouths with rows of razor sharp teeth. And there's hundreds of them.
- "Leiningen Versus the Ants", a short story by Carl Stephenson, is about a Brazilian plantation owner who takes on a mass of army ants. Adapted for an episode of the Escape radio program, the movie The Naked Jungle, and even an episode of MacGyver.
- The Silver Threads in Dragonriders of Pern.
- "Sandkings", a short story by George R.R. Martin, which was adapted (with numerous changes) into an The Outer Limits (1995) episode. Simon Kress, a rich and vain Jerkass whose hobby is collecting dangerous pets, stops into The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday, and purchases four groups of the titular insectoids. The shopkeeper tells him that they will literally worship him by carving his likeness into their sandcastles, and the four "armies" will make war upon each other, for Simon's amusement. The shopkeeper also warns him to be patient, to give them time to grow and mature, and to treat them well. He isn't, and he doesn't.
- The third book of A Series of Unfortunate Events has Lachrymose leeches, which swarm the poor fools who violate the 'Wait an hour before going swimming rule.
- The Bible:
- Remember the 10 plagues of Egypt? Plague #2 was frogs, plague #3 was gnats/lice/fleas, plague #4 was flies or wild animals (depending on the interpretation), and plague #8 was locusts.
- And in the book of Revelation, one of the Trumpet Judgments is a swarm of demon locusts that infect people without the seal of God on their foreheads with a maddening delirium that lasts for five months.
- In the Codex Alera series, the Vord are one of these. Picture 8 foot tall cockroaches with a Genius Bruiser, speedy, Made of Iron Queen.
- Drog beetles in Galaxy of Fear. They're docile and harmless individually, but the more they are the more aggressive they act, and in large enough numbers they start going after people. In The Swarm a character peripherally notices that clouds are covering the sun, and in another moment realizes that those aren't storm clouds...
- In another Star Wars Expanded Universe book, Planet of Twilight, there are the Droch beetles, who function on the microscopic level or who can evolve to a sentient, hominid form, the main villain of the book, who plots to use the Imperial Remnant to get the Droch off their homeworld and spread into the stars, but in their primary form are very much The Swarm.
- The Swarm of Night from The Chathrand Voyages isn't one in the most technical sense (it's made up of millions of tiny black, bug-like spirits but all are part of the same entity and guided by the same purpose) but certainly resembles one enough to earn its name. It exists to patrol the border between the living world and the underworld, preventing either from troubling the other, but when loosed into the living world it becomes attracted to acts of death and violence (such as large battles) that are already in progress and "completes" them (by killing everyone left alive). This causes it to grow larger, and if it grows large enough, it can (and will) consume the entire planet. The Big Bad deliberately set it free so that his God of Evil patrons would be impressed enough by his destruction of a world to elevate him to godhood himself.
- Nightworld. Portals to Another Dimension have opened sending nightmare creatures swarming across the Earth, including "chew-wasps" which have More Teeth than the Osmond Family, "spearheads" (a flying spike that impales and sucks out the victim's blood), "belly-flies" (floating sacs of acid) and "man-o-wars" (just think tentacles). Humanity barely has a grip on these horrors with steel mesh defenses and flamethrowers when even bigger monsters start coming through...
- The Man With The Terrible Eyes has an army of quasi-sapient beetles that live inside the Man's sofa.
- Eden Green contains both 'exes', X-shaped monsters that swarm up against their prey, and general hordes of black needle monsters.
- Supernatural and Reaper have both had episodes about possessed swarms of insects.
- Doctor Who featured the Vashta Nerada in the two-part episode "Silence in the Library" and "Forest of the Dead". What made them nasty wasn't so much their numbers as their ability to masquerade as shadows, making any patch of darkness a potential death trap full of tiny air piranhas.
"Daleks, aim for the eyestalk; Sontarans, back of the neck. Vashta Nerada? ...Run. Just run."
- Primeval. The Anurognathus work like this. They're even compared to piranhas by the characters. There have also been swarms of beetles from both the past and future, each led by a giant queen, the prehistoric version of which can fly and lays eggs down her victims' throats. In addition, there have been giant camel spiders from the Carboniferous, a gigantic pack of venomous therocephalians, lethally adorable Daemonosaurus, carnivorous Precambrian worms, and huge colonial burrowing insects from the future.
- Stargate SG-1: Prior Bugs or R75 are made this by thoughtless research, Fridge Logic has the echolocation-prone death machine kill everyone and reproduce infinity-fold rather than thousand-fold but somehow avoid SG-1 and their special guests until they manage to beckon the Prometheus to teleport them into safety.
- The Outer Limits (1995): The Sandkings from the first episode are a swarm that digs through sand and builds things in them and... ITS FULL HORROR!!!
- Smallville had an episode with a lady who could control bees.
- The X-Files: in one of the most purely terrifying episodes ever aired (...in any series, ever), season one's "Darkness Falls" tells the story of a previously-unknown, multi-hundred thousand year old species of web-weaving insects that cocoon their animal victims before draining them of their vital fluids...and which only come out at night, as well, thus adding another primal fear to the situation. By the end, just how frightening were they...? When the forces of the Shadow Government, operating under the auspices of an environmental hazard unit, arrive and make it clear to a traumatized-by-attack yet slowly recovering Mulder that they will stop at nothing to end the creatures' threat...you realize that you're thanking God for the erstwhile fascists.
- Infested is a Truth in Television documentary series about people's homes being overrun by spiders, ants, snakes, or other undesirable critters. While seldom lethal, such Real Life incidents can certainly render a property uninhabitable.
- The Bible:
- The Book of Revelation forecasts a mighty swarm of locust-like creatures in the Last Days, who will herald not only famine but also searing agony to anyone they bite and transmit their venom to. And nothing except the merciful word of the Lord will be able to stop them.
- All-consuming locusts were also one of the plagues sent by God upon Egypt, to persuade an intractable Pharaoh to let His people go.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The way the rules are set up there's no logical way for bug-sized or even normal-rat-sized creatures to be properly threatening even to first level characters... hence, the Swarm type. Depending on the size of the individual creatures involved, swarms can resist and even be immune to damage that isn't an area attack.
- In Fourth Edition, Druids have an optional class feature that lets them become one when Wild Shaped. Swarm Druids are extremely tough, enough to act as secondary defenders.
- 3.5 Druids have a Prestige Class called Swarm Lord. They can shapeshift into swarms and control them-normally swarms and vermin are off limits to druids.
- Early editions of the "Creeping Doom" swarm summoning spell would inflict 1 point of damage per creature (that would then die) but could have up to 1000 creatures. 1000 points of guaranteed damage against any opponent vulnerable to standard attacks - such a swarm could easily kill a dozen first edition dragons.
- The Epic Level Handbook introduced the Ruin Swarm, which takes a Swarm and makes it big enough to threaten small countries.
- Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000:
- Both games have swarm units. They are typically represented by a large base with many models on it, counting as one multi-wounded model. They also tend to be cheap, so these swarms tend to be fairly big.
- Tyranids from 40,000 have weapons that shoot a number of small creatures at an enemy to eat it to death.
- In Traveller there is a small planet called Nifhleim that is completely covered with mysterious microscopic creatures(either biological or robotic). Anything that comes to the surface is devoured in hours.
- A particularly horrifying subsect of the Baali in Vampire: The Masquerade is known as the Avatars of the Swarm. They believe that their entire purpose in life is to breed ghouled swarms of flies... inside their bodies. And their vicitms. And they're not even the worst of the Baali!
- Technically, Zaktan, although he usually functions as The Worm That Walks. When his old boss tried to vaporize him, he was somehow able to pull himself back together as microscopic "protodites". In this new, permanent state, Zaktan can easily avoid attacks by turning into an insect swarm; change the shape of body parts; heal damage by filling the gaps with Protodites; and engulf a foe in an attack that must feel like getting hit with thousands of needles. Zaktan himself calls it a curse however, as his voice now sounds like a crowd speaking; and whenever he wakes up he can feel his body shifting "where there once were tissue and solid metal".
- Don't forget the Bohrok, actually called the Swarm.
- The Visorak.
- The Bee enemies in Banjo-Kazooie.
- The Scrin in Command & Conquer 3: Tiberian Wars have an eponymous special power that allows them to instantaneously summon several Buzzer swarms anywhere on the map.
- In BioShock series, the "Insect Swarm" Plasmid allows you to release a swarm of bees from your hand.
- Flood Infection Forms from the Halo series certainly qualify, though the Flood as a whole eventually upgrade to bigger and badder forms. Heck, the super-advanced Forerunners found the Flood so overwhelming, they had to resort to annihilating all sentient life left in the galaxy in order to starve them out.
- Ingstorms in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.
- Also Parasites, Scarabs, Tallon Crabs and Lumigeks in the original Prime. There's quite a lot of small weak enemies that appear in large numbers in the game. They're not quite as deadly as Ingstorms tho (doing only minor damage while Ingstorms will kill you really quick without the Light Suit).
- Known derisively as 'blobbing' in EVE Online this is the primary tactic of the infamous Goonswarm alliance leading to their adoption of the Bee as an emblem. Don't let that fool you, the Goons have some very competent players and strategists but the alliance structure is such that the majority simply default to the 'Jihadswarm' approach.
- In Dragon Age: Origins, Morrigan and other mages with the Shapeshifter specialization can become one. If they master their shapeshifting, they even can drain life from nearby enemies.
- During one area of Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time, you have to avoid invincible swarms of tiny, jabbering critters called Tetramites. Unlike every other source of damage, Tetramites will constantly damage Ratchet and slow him down if they touch him. The creepy music that accompanies their appearance drives the point home that you've got only three options- shoot some water to repel them, use plant nectar to distract them, or run like hell.
- In both Resistance Fall Of Man and Resistance 2: In the first one (only in a cutscene): crawlers, cockroach-like things that infect someone by getting in one's body en masse and in the second one: during a level, you are chased by an invincible swarm of flying, razor-sharp bugs(according to intel, evolved crawlers from the 1st game)that are invulnerable to boot.
- Alien Swarm gives us the swarm.
- The, well, Zerg Swarm in StarCraft. There's a reason they named Zerg Rush, after all.
- Arachnophobics have been known to have a hard time getting through some levels of the Tomb Raider games. The latest one, Tomb Raider: Underworld, had swarms of spiders in the earlier levels that Lara had to shake off, and then human-sized tarantulas, that, once shot and killed, burst into a nausea-inducing mess that looks unsettlingly like what a dead tarantula might look like in real life.
- Mass Effect 2. In the Suicide Mission, you must navigate through a corridor of Collector Swarms that will kill you. If you don't pick the right biotic for the job, one of your squadmates will be killed by the swarm. Shepard also runs for dear life back to the Normandy at the very end away from the swarm and other Collectors.
- Haunting Ground: Failing the Truth Puzzle (the spot the difference rooms in Daniella's area) results in Fiona being locked in the room, with a swarm of beetles/scarabs flying in from the air vent to eat her alive. The last shot we see before the game over screen is of one crawling out of the human mannequin's mouth.
- Yoshi's Story utilized this in several forms. In levels like The Tall Tower or Frustration, you get swarms of chickadees, flying by constantly. In the cloud level, you get bees in one room, and a much denser swarm of mini fly-guys in another. A huge swarm of mini cheep-cheeps is found in Lots o' Fish.
- Diablo II has swarms of insects as a certain enemy type. You can stab them to death with swords and they drop suits of armor.
- The Binding of Isaac expansion Wrath Of The Lamb introduces the Swarmer enemy, little more than a withered humanoid head serving as a nest for a cloud of flies.
- While not a swarm of insects per se, the Swarm from Spiral Knights is this. Basically, it's a bunch of black particles that corrupt and infect anything they touch, including enemies. While traces of it can be found in Spark and Roar's last floor, most of the deadly substance is thankfully sealed away within the Shadow Lairs. Unfortunately, said Shadow Lairs are literally replicas of the boss levels, including the bosses themselves. Considering that the Swarm needs to infect something first to take its form, this implies something very dark... Thankfully, however, Knights are immune to it. That's not even the worst of it; after beating the Swarm-infested bosses, you are sent into the Unknown Passage: an entire section of the Clockworks that serves as a sort of breeding ground for the monsters; this is also where the Swarm reaches it's highest concentration. To make matters even worse, it's implied that King Tinkizar is the one that created the Swarm, as there Gremlin corpses lying on the ground...
- In Gears of War, Kryll are swarming bat-like creatures which come out at night and devour any living creature dumb enough to step out of a well-lit area. The Locust Horde, despite their name, are not this, as they are human-sized or bigger (although General RAAM has the power to control Kryll and uses them in battle). Their replacements in Gears of War 4 are literally called "The Swarm", but they also do not apply.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild:
- Keese sometimes come in big groups. They will, however, fly away if Link kills a few of them.
- Small swarms of bees attack anything nearby if their hive is destroyed. They're fairly slow and weak, though, and weapons can be used to discombobulate them.
- The superheroes in Parimetra battle against swarms of "monsters," tiny black creatures that emerge from portals and roam the city of Parimetra in big black clouds. Being caught outside when the swarm is out spells instant death, and they can only be killed by superpowered attacks.
- The Grex from the Swarm on the Somme series.
- In Worm, bug-controller Skitter frequently uses her power to make these.
- In Twig Gladys Shipman designs a swarm of insects which she's modified to inject subjects with various types of venom, intending to use it as a method to apply vaccinations to large groups of people at a time. In order to get funding, she also adapted it to work with non-lethal paralyzing venoms for crowd control.
- Transformers Prime: Scraplets do this to living metal. They also look adorable, right up until they open their mouths to show rows and rows of teeth, fly at their chosen victim, and eat them alive from the inside out, piece by piece.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The show has a surprisingly large variety of aggressive insect-like creatures that attack in massive swarms.
- The Parasprites are cute and adorable individually. However, they have a less than endearing way of devouring everything they can find and rapidly reproducing by puking up new members of their species. In "Swarm of the Century", they're shown to be able to go from a single specimen to a famished swarm of hundreds within hours.
- Queen Chrysalis's changeling soldiers, despite being pony-sized, evoke this full time. Despite being able to fly, use magic and shapeshift, they're shown to be much weaker than a regular pony in combat — in " A Canterlot Wedding – Part 2", six civilian ponies with no combat training were able to beat their way through dozens of changeling soldiers before being overwhelmed by numbers. They compensate for this by vastly outnumbering their foes.
- Apple Bloom's dream sequence in "Bloom & Gloom" features twittermites, electrogenic insect pests. They're not significantly dangerous alone or in small groups — a pony with the right equipment and special talent can neutralize even a small swarm with ease. However, they become extremely dangerous if allowed to spread out of control — a large enough swarm can create thunderbolts capable of destroying buildings with one strike.
- In "Campfire Tales", Applejack, Apple Bloom, Rarity, Sweetie Belle, Rainbow Dash and Scootaloo are attacked by a swarm of flyders (spiders with fly wings and capable of shooting their webbing). They quickly overwhelm the ponies through sheer numbers, biting anyone they can reach and trying to tangle them in their webs. They eventually force them to run for it and completely overrun their campsite within minutes. Applejack implies they might have tried to eat them if they had managed to capture them.
- "A Health of Information" features flash bees, insects resembling bees or hornets with blue rather than black stripes, whose aggressive swarms and electrified stings Fluttershy has to brave to obtain their magically powerful honey. They're not even rendered individually — their swarms are just drawn as flying blue-and-yellow masses surging with electricity.
- One episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers dealt with Verminous Skumm engineering a breed of locust that fed off of pesticides, causing the locals' efforts of (environmentally unfriendly) eradication to merely exacerbate the infestation.
- The nematodes in SpongeBob SquarePants. They eat everything in their path — some kelp, a stop sign, a whole truck — then wash it down by sucking the juice out of SpongeBob's pineapple home.
- Played for comedy in Blackfly, when the narrator, working in north Ontario on building a dam, is plagued incessantly by clouds of infuriating and relentless black flies.
- Hymenoptera, the order of Insecta that includes bees, wasps, and ants, is responsible for more lethal attacks on humans than any other animal on the planet.
- Among vertebrates, flocks of birds often use "mobbing" tactics to chase off predatory birds. Small songbirds do this to crows, and crows do it to hawks.
- Sadly, many paranoid schizophrenics and meth addicts have delusions of insects coming out of their bodies to torment them, leading them to cut, scratch and otherwise hurt themselves to get rid of the insects that they imagine are there.
- The largest swarm of organisms ever documented took place in the western United States in 1875, when Rocky Mountain locusts spread out from Texas to decimate agriculture in four states. Measurements of its scope and speed peg the swarm's area at some 198,000 square miles; modern entomologists calculate that it consisted of some 3.5 trillion insects.