Barry: BEE men!
It's a fact that throughout history, mammals including humans have dwelled in mostly patriarchal societies where the males are dominant and females are primarily childrearers. Because of this, the queen bee was called a "king" by beekeepers until dissections under microscopes in the eighteenth century showed them to be female. Since then we have come to realise that most organized insect hives are started, run and overwhelmingly populated by females. In Hymenopteran social insect colonies (ants, bees, wasps, etc.), females are the only ones who have any semblance of a job, and are responsible for all the work involved in running things, such as building, foraging, defending from outsiders, and most especially creating eggs for the continuation of the swarm. The males? They have sex and then die - or are eaten (or sometimes both).
Fiction often fails to acknowledge this. Instead intelligent insects in fantasy media will usually have as a hero ... a male worker? The fact that the ant and bee workers are all females (albeit sterile), and the only males are Drones created solely from the genetics of the queen to fertilize queens of a different colony and quickly die after this mission is complete, sometimes by the queen ripping the male's genitalia out of his body, seems to have no bearing on this trope. It probably doesn't help that, in normal usage, a "drone" is someone or something who works mindlessly, leading to them being confused with the worker ants, who are a separate caste.
Fiction also tends to show an even or near even split between males to females, when there are barely a few hundred males for thousands of females in most insect societies due to the nature of how sexes are decided.
Note that termites hives are much closer to human expectations. Termites aren't related to bees, ants, and wasps (they're actually closer to cockroaches), so they evolved eusociality completely separately. For example, reproductive male termites don't die after sex—they spend the rest of their lives in the nest with the queen, and are called "kings". The workers can also be either male or female. Surprisingly (or maybe not), few fiction writers have taken advantage of this.
On its way to becoming a Cyclical Trope. More realistic portrayals of insect societies sometimes appear in works mining it for social or political commentary, or in science fiction intentionally using its unfamiliar nature to make insectoid aliens feel more strange.
This trope also applies to biting male mosquitoes, when in reality, only female mosquitoes bite.note
A subtrope of Artistic License Biology. Can be combination of Somewhere, an Entomologist Is Crying and Most Writers Are Male. Subtrope of Animal Gender-Bender. Can be an example of the The Smurfette Principle.
- Honey Nut Cheerios and Nasonex feature anthropomorphic male honeybees as their mascots.
- Antz portrays males and females among both soldiers and workers. The hero, naturally, is male.
- A Bug's Life:
- Females rule the colony, and while some see many of the minor workers as female that doesn't detract from the fact the movie centers around a wingless male worker.
- Played with when a (male) fly makes a pass at Francis, who responds: "So, being a ladybug automatically makes me a girl, huh?"
- The Ant Bully. At least they had the decency to make the Queen huge and immobile. It does depict a male Glow-worm. Glow-worms are wingless female fireflies—males are winged beetles.
- Bee Movie:
- A lawyer points out that the main character's parents are actually siblings to make bees look bad. In real life, all bees in a generation share a common mother in the queen, and there are multiple fathers (a queen typically mates with 12-15 drones) who die shortly after mating. The protagonist Barry as well as the "pollen jocks" are all male, even though all worker bees are female.
- Later in the movie, a mosquito (obviously male) complains that he's always being slapped for sucking a person's blood. Male mosquitoes are rarely seen and only feed on plants. It's the female mosquitoes that feed on blood. They need the protein for their eggs.
- The TV movie Mansquito (oh yes; it's a Syfy Channel Original Movie) has a human-mosquito hybrid killing people and drinking their blood. Problem is it's a mansquito, so he's not growing any eggs and shouldn't require blood at all. While this COULD be written off as the radioactive gunk also changing his gender (if it can make a mammal part-insect, why not?) it enters flat out ridiculous territory when he begins pursuing a WOMAN who has been mutated to a lesser extent. And while even that could be written off as a twofer Gender Bender, the fact that SHE also craves blood completely extinguishes the possibility for any amusing Fanon theories.
- In Ant-Man Scott consistently refers to the worker ants that aid him with male pronouns, even naming one "Antony". While this would hardly change the actual biological sex of the ants, but no one bothers to correct him. He continues the trend in Ant-Man and the Wasp, coming up with more Punny Names that are male-inspired, like "Ant-onio Banderas". Still no one comments.
- Hesiod's poem Theogony has a misogynistic passage comparing women to drones and men to worker bees, ever so slightly undermining its attempt to imply gender roles are immutable. So this is Older Than Feudalism.
- Not so much averted as flatly denied with the Priest-Kings of Gor. They are giant hyper-intelligent ants, and apart from the hyper-intelligent science, their culture follows that of ants in detail (they communicate by scent, tolerate dangerous parasites in their nest for the sake of their euphoric secretions, on occasion turn themselves into living storage jars for food, etc.) EXCEPT that they're all male apart from one queen, and are as given as Gorean human males to making comments about the irrationality of females. But given that this author has defined a new standard for misogyny, anything else would be unthinkable.
- The First Men in the Moon: Despite being described as similar to ants, the Grand Lunar is referred to as a male by the narrator.
- In Alice Cooper's The Black Widow, which extols all the terrible evil majestic qualities of the spider note , the deadly, pitiless and evil monarch who devours its mate immediately after sex - is described as "he" and "unholiest of kings".
The evil of his stingThe horror that he brings,Unholiest of kings -The Black Widow!
- The Far Side: Gary Larson received many complaints after drawing a cartoon showing a male mosquito coming home saying "What a day! I must have spread malaria across half the country!" It's the female mosquito that sucks blood. His response: "Of course, it's perfectly acceptable that these creatures wear clothes, live in houses, speak English, etc."
- The ants in B.C. don't even have a hive structure; anthills contain family groups of mom, dad, and one or more kids. The mom isn't a huge queen either, she's just an ant with eyelashes.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- There's a race of insect-like creatures called Dromites. Dromites are genderless with the exception of the Grand Queen and Elected Consort, both of whom are responsible for populating the entire city hive. Also, the Queen and her Consort are elected every year, so how exactly the dromites gain sexual characteristics is unknown. However, it does resemble real life in that neither the Grand Queen or the Elected Consort does much, so ruling is presumably left to the normal dromites.
- The ant-like Formians have an immobile queen (who also has very powerful magic abilities), male "myrmarch" caste of field leaders and consorts, and sexless worker, soldier and slaver castes.
- While the Tyranids of Warhammer 40,000 are genderless, the most powerful units are referred to as male (Broodlord, Swarmlord...). Every 'nid is spawned from seldom-seen units called Norn Queens.
- Best Fiends:
- Edward is a male mosquito that regrets his former blood sucking ways, and has since switched to coconut water. However, as a male mosquito, he should have had a diet like that to begin with.
- Carmen is a cochineal. While she still has the red tint that female cochineal are known for (their tint is what makes up carmine), she also has wings, a trait only male cochineal have.
- Mister Mosquito is yet another example of the "blood-sucking male mosquito" subtrope.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3, The Pain refers to the hornets he controls as his brothers, and actually uses the queen to direct their attacks from the backpack he carries.
- Charmy (a rarely-seen character from some Sonic the Hedgehog games) is a male bee with a stinger. He's also a 'child' despite not being a larva.
- King's Quest V
- The fifth generation of Pokémon introduced Durant, an ant based pokemon. They lack queens and they all seem to be workers that can be either male or female.
- Beast Wars:
- Inferno in believes himself to be a soldier ant, but seems to identify as male. Since he also recognizes Megatron as male despite calling him "my queen", this may simply be an attempt to reconcile reality with his insect delusions.
- Waspinator is a male Predacon whose wasp mode contains a stinger.
- Just to add to hilarity, Tarantulas and Waspinator were both mistakingly referred as females in earlier episodes of the french dub.
- In the Bitsy Bears pilot cartoon, the Bitsy Bears create a fake "bee king" to trick Bramble into releasing the beenapped bees. Bramble never calls them on it, but this could be because they launched their plan in the middle of the night, and she was still half-asleep.
- One of the vintage animated sequences on Sesame Street shows a young male bee sent out on his first nectar-collecting expedition by his mommy and daddy bees. It wouldn't have been any harder for the writers to get it RIGHT by creating a young female worker being instructed by the queen and a worker aunt or older sister. (Depiction of an alternative family in a children's show? MADNESS.)
- A 1942 cartoon of Barney Bear had the eponymous hungry bear using a female windup doll to lure the bees away from their hive so he could abscond with their honey (with lipstick, long blond hair, curvy hips and all).
- An episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic features a colony of Flash Bees, whose workers are explicitly referred to as being male, with only the queen being female. In real life, every member of the colony is female except for the breeding drones.
- In The Ren & Stimpy Show, mosquitoes suck blood and prepare to lay eggs. Between their gruff voices and casual use of "man," they sure sound like they should be capable of neither.
- Averted, interestingly, in The Bible, in Proverbs 6:6. Considering when that particular book was written and translated, it's probably a manifestation of noun gender (the Old English, Latin and Hebrew words for ant are all feminine, not neuter and thus anything other than "her" would be a grammatical error).
"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise!"
- Averted in Rudyard Kipling's The Mother Hive, an undisguised Author Tract that grabbed the stock metaphor and ran with it to the very end without derailing by usual general interpretation failures. Workers are always referred in feminine gender, queen does not exactly publishes decrees (and goaded into activity by workers), drones get mentioned at all exclusively in the contexts of mating flights, swarming or development anomalies.
- Averted in Empire of the Ants by Bernard Werber, in which it's clearly explained that drones die after they mate. One of the main characters of the non-human part of the story is a drone ant, but he dies before the mating flight.
- Averted in The Heroic Adventure Of Hercules Amsterdam; no male ants actually appear, but they apparently serve as slaves for females. At one point the Queen actually exiles a female worker into slavery, accusing her of secretly being a "weak" male in disguise.
- Averted in The Merro Tree by Katie Waitman. There is a sentient hymenopteroid race, the H'n'kae (who are among other things famed for unarmed combat). The worker and warrior castes are entirely made up of females; only a very few males exist at all; the queen is the only H'n'kae who lays eggs and is very very large indeed.
- The mosquito trope is averted in China Miéville's The Scar: There is a race of sentient humanoid mosquitoes; the males are nectar-eaters and their wings are silent. The females are sanguinivorous, their wings drone when they fly, and they are widely feared. Both sexes are intelligent (and frighteningly so), though the blood-hunger in females makes it difficult for them to converse with any blooded creature long enough to gain a common language.
- Averted in the Ender's Game series: the Formics are a very accurate depiction of an insect colony, albeit one of intelligent, alien insects.
- Averted with the bloodsucking mosquito in the Dr. Seuss story, This is Ann. Ann, whose full name is Anopheles Mosquito, is correctly shown as female.
- Averted in the children's book, Ned Kelly And the City Of the Bees. The main bee character is female, and the drones do die in the end.
- Averted in The Bees by Laline Paul; the main character is a female worker bee called Flora 717, and bee gender roles are accurately portrayed with her hivemates.
- Bee deities in Greek, Baganda, Hittite and Hindu mythology are all female, suggesting that people in these areas knew what the gender of drones and queens was long before European scientists.
- Looks to be averted in Star Fleet Battles with the insectoid Seltorians, in that the ships are crewed by female workers. They differ from real hymnopterans in that they are led by 'Sages' who were male 'Rams' that the Queen never got around to mating with, and suddenly survived, became long lived, and much smarter than all the females. But then, they are not insects but insect-inspired aliens.
- Oddly, averted in Sword of the Stars. The pseudo-insectoid Hiver race consists primarily of sexless warriors and workers. The breeding caste consists of princesses who are absolute rulers as well as egg-layers, and princes whose duties consist largely of mating with the princesses, as well as trying to claim glory and achievements to prove they're worth mating with. It actually mirrors genuine colony insects quite well, albeit with the addition of sapience and culture, and the divergences are justified because they're not actually insects, but rather extraterrestrial life-forms which resemble Earthly insects, but also have important distinctions — they have an internal skeleton, for instance. (Oh, and cheese gets them drunk.)
- Averted in, at least DoDonPachi: DaiFukkatsu where it is revealed that Hibachi, the eponymous Angry Boss Bee, is female. Whether this is true for the previous four games or not is unknown.
- Averted in Demon Street, where all the giant ants staffing the archives are female.
- Averted in The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! where all of the ants, bees, and wasps appear to be female.
- In The Magic School Bus episode about ants, one of the things the caller in the tag segment complains about is that the producers never bothered to point out that all the worker ants the kids saw were female. When the kids visit a beehive in a later episode, Miss Frizzle specifically informs her students that all the worker bees around them are female.
- Averted in Russian language, where a drone is called "трутень" (truten'), and its second meaning is "The one not doing any physical work", which is essentially what drones are. Polish "truteń" has the same two meanings. Loan words, Russian "дрон" (dron) and Polish "dron", are used in the meaning unmanned aerial vehicle.
- The Spanish word "zángano" (dron) also has the second meaning of "lazy" and has male grammatical gender while "abeja" (Bee) is a female word.
- Spark Plug Entertainment plays it straight with Plan Bee, which features both male and female worker bees and has a male worker as its protagonist, but averts it with An Ant's Life, where all worker ants are depicted as female.
- Perry Rhodan, due to its nature as an extreme Long Runner written by a team of authors, sometimes averts this trope and sometimes plays it straight. In one memorable case, however, it manages to get this correct but still mess up. In one storyline shortly after the Earth has been teleported across the galaxy (long story), we're introduced to the dominant species of the sector (insectoid; beelike, to be specific) with a slightly disturbing scene where drones are rounded up and executed by the workers after having fulfilled their duty while the queen muses on how lucky she was to have been, among other things, fed the right kind of nectar so she won't have to take care of that - then switches over to a lengthy explanation of how the insects developed because there's too little cosmic radiation in that sector of the galaxy for mammals to evolve quickly enough, causing insects became sentient first.
- The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper Feast accurately portrays Lizzie Bee as a female worker (although it maintains human gender stereotypes by dressing her as a milkmaid, complete with panniers, presumably of nectar). On the other hand, Harold the Herald is a male gadfly who likes "a morning cup of blood". (The "Nature Notes" at the back of the book correct this.)
- Combee is based on worker honey bees. Not only they can be either male or female, but males are more frequent, having a ratio of seven males for every female. However, only those rare female Combees can evolve into Vespiquen.
- In Pokémon Sun and Moon, the Ultra Beast Buzzwole, based off a mosquito, resembles a male bodybuilder with muscles formed from blood sacs. Similarly, its counterpart Pheremosa, based off a cockroach, resembles a female supermodel, with a slender body and a hair-like carapace that extends beyond its abdomen. However, only female mosquitoes suck blood, and only male cockroaches are thinner than the females, with a carapace that extends beyond their abdomen. Though both of them are genderless, this feature is likely more of an excuse to make them non-breedable than anything else. However, seeing as how both are Ultra Beasts, this may very well have been invoked in order to make them more bizarre and off-putting.
- Jet Force Gemini the 64 shooter plays with this interestingly. The default alien ant soldiers, known as Soldier Drones, as well as most of their variants, are identified as female in the multiplayer mode. There are soldier males of their species, though, which resemble termites.