Pests, Plagues & Politics
Lecture 8
The esthetics of “bugs”
Key Points
• Insects in music
– Insects as singers
– Insects as objects of musical interest
• Insects in Art
– A photographic tour
• Insects in Poetry
Insects as Musicians
• Insects as Singers
– What’s music?
“…the art & science of combining vocal, or
instrumental sounds………..”
“…any rhythmic sequence of pleasing sounds,
as of birds, water, etc.”
Insects As Singers
• “A great many insect species produce
sound by means of special structures, but
only a few, such as crickets, grasshoppers
& cicadas, are heard by most people:
– Borror & DeLong
– others: Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, Isoptera,
Homoptera & Lepidoptera
The most noted “singers”
• The Orthopterans
– grasshoppers - crickets - katydids
– Stridulation is the primary mechanism
– Two Song Types
• “Calling” songs by males for females
• “Fighting” songs by males for territorial
Singing Orthoptera
• As “caged” singers
– In China for more than 2,000 years
– Japan with active cricket markets today
– Hopper Houses of Hamburg
Cricket peddlers
Insects as Musicians
More on singing insects…
… in Lecture 13: Light and Sound Shows
Insects as Objects of “musical interest”
A little music if you please…
• EL GRILLO (the cricket)
• Composed by Josquin des Pres
– a Renaissance composer, French borne but
work in Italy most of his career.
El Grillo
• The cricket is a good
• who sings for a long
• the cricket sings just
for fun
• the cricket is a good
• But unlike the birds
who fly off when
they’ve sung a little
• the cricket just stays
where he is
• when the weather is
very hot he sings only
for love.
The most famous singing cricket
“When you
wish upon
a star,
makes no
difference who
you are…..”
Insects in the minds of musicians
Buddy Holly and the Crickets, The Beatles, Alien Ant Farm, Adam and
the Ants, Wasp, Papa Roach, The Yellowjackets, The Hives, Moth, Iron
Butterfly, Insect Funeral, Insect Jazz, Insect Opera, Insect Surfers,
Startled Insects, Katydids, Happycrickets, Grasshopper and the Golden
Crickets, Grasshopper Highway, Grasshopper Takeover, Chrome
Locust, Hungry Locust, Locust Fudge, Distant Locust Horse Flies,
Domestic Flies, Tse Tse Fly, Twenty Ton Fly, Lounge Fly, Madfly,
Milky Fly, Flyscreen Flyspeck, Fly Swatter, The Maggots from Mars,
Baby Flies, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Fly Ashtray, Busy Bee, Killer
Bee, Dance Bee, Sick Bees, Sugar Bees, Honey and the Bees, Chico
and the Hornets, Bee Stung Lips, Sting(?), Freddie and the Fleas,
Atomic Flea, Beach Flea, Fleaboy, Saturn's Flea Collar, Roach Motel
Style, Roachpowder, Butterfly Temple, Butterfly Train, Butterfly
Messiah, Butterfly Tree, Butterfly Child, Termites, Firefly, Fire Fly,
Kory and the FirefliesThe Bee
• As themes for artistic works
• As objects of beauty of their own accord
• “The appreciation of the beauty of insects
& the association between them & the
arts has always been much greater…in
the Far East than the Western
Hemisphere.” McEvan (1974)
Bird-wing Butterflies
Southeast Asia
Trogonoptera brookiana
Name after Sir James Brooke,
the last [19th century] Raja
of Borneo
Early Autumn
Ca. 1280
Artist: Ch’ien Hsuan
Chinese master painter, poet
& naturalist
Four orders of insects
Orthoptera: six species
Coleoptera: false blister
Diptera: two families
Odonata: two families
Maria Sibylla Merian Graffin
• 17th century entomologist
& artist
• German
• From her “Tropical
Winter Bees
Andrew Wyeth
Corvallis - 2005
Stag Beetle
Albrecht Durer
b. 1471; d. 1528
Master German
A wood borer
in the larval
Balthasar van der Ast
Dutch - 1620
Flowers & Fruit
van der Ast’s “bugs” in higher resolution
Nice fly
Balthasar van der Ast {again}
van der Ast “Still Life”
Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder – 16th century - Dutch
Johannes Bosschaert – Flemish – 17th century
One very small fly
Abraham van Calraet
17th Century Dutch
“Peaches & Grapes”
“Three Medlars with a
Dutch - 1705
Adriaen Coorte
by Andries Both
Dutch [1612 – 1641]
Bartholomeus Assteyn
Dutch - 1635
“Still Life”
“Still Life with Stag Beetle”
Georg Flegal [German] 1566-1638
Roses & Beetle - 1889
Vincent van Gogh
{the Japanese beetle}
Vincent Van Gogh
Death’s Head Moth
Salvador Dali
Myself at the Age of Ten When
I Was the Grasshopper child
Daddy Longlegs of the
19th century
European “micro-art”
made from butterfly scales
Insects as Medium
• Henry Dalton: 1829-1911.
• Scientist and micrographer.
• Micro-mosaics created with the
scales of butterfly wings from all
over the world.
• Stripped off individual scales
with needle and transferred to
slides with microscope.
• Preparations usually required a
thousand individual scales.
Butterfly Wing Art
•No additional paint or colors used
•Wings collected from dead
butterflies on the ground
•No live butterflies used
Wm. Wasden, Jr.
representation by
Southwest Native
“In Hopi mythology, kachinas
were beneficent spirit-beings
who accompanied people from
the underworld, the origin of
all peoples.”
Capinera (1993)
Kachina Spirit
Aztec pictograph for
A place name
Chapullin = grasshopper
Tepec = hill
Chapultepec is:
‘the town where a
grasshopper sits on a hill’
In the Nahuatl language of
the Aztec empire
Azcapotzalco: azcatl = ant – putzalli = sand heap – co = in
Figuratively = in a place with a very dense population
Insects & Poetry
• Insect Poets??
– Not really, except for maybe people like
• Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
• & Don Marquis
• “…then you don’t like all insects?”
the Gnat went on, as quietly as if
nothing had happened.
• “I like them when they can talk,”
Alice said. “None of them ever talk
where I come from.”
Harbingers of
I heard a fly buzz when I died;
The stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.
The eyes beside had wrung them dry,
And breaths were gathering sure
For that last onset, when the king
Be witnessed in his power.
I willed my keepsakes, signed away
What portion of me I
Could make assignable,-and then
There interposed a fly,
With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
I could not see to see.
--Emily Dickinson
The Merchant of Venice
“Here in her hairs
The painter plays the spider
and hath woven
A golden mesh to entrap the
hearts of men
Faster than gnats in cobwebs”
Romeo & Juliet
(act III, scene 3)
“…more courtship lives
In carrion flies than Romeo;
They may seize
On the wonder of dear Juliet’s hand,
And steal immortal blessing from
her lips
Who, even in pure and vestal
Still blush, as thinking their own
kisses sin
“But Romeo may not; he is banished.
Henry IV
(act II, scene 3)
2nd character: “I think this be
the most villainous house in
all London Road for fleas: I
am stung like a tench.” (a carp)
1st character: “Like a tench” By
the mass, there is ne’er a king
in Christendom could be
better bit than I have been
since the first cock.”
“…they will allow
us ne’er a jordon (chamber
pot), and then we leak in
your chimney; and your
chamber-ley (bedroom)
breeds fleas like a loach.”
(another type of carp)
2nd character:
[Shakespeare was referring to the old notion that
fleas arise from soaking putrid matter with
Aristotle’s spontaneous generation once again.
Crickets as poets
• W.S.U. [2003]
– 200 crickets each with a word label attached to
the dorsum.
– Digitally imaged and the following were
• Imagine through poem what crickets hear
• And a perfect song too
• What can crickets feel
Well known Poets & their “bugs”
• Siphonaptera
– The Flea by John Dunn
• Anaplura
– To A Louse by Robert Burns
• Orthoptera
– The Grasshopper by Abraham Cowley
– The Grasshopper by Alfred Tennyson
– The Grasshopper & the Cricket by John
– On the Grasshopper by William Cowper
• Coleoptera
– The Nightingale & the Cricket by Wm.
– The Star & the Glow-worm by Wm.
• Diptera
To a Fly by John Wolcott
Upon a Fly by Robert Herrick
Midges by Owen Meredith
To the Gnat by Samual Rogers
To a Mosquito by J.J. Montague
• Hymenoptera
To a Bee by Robert Southey
The Bag of the Bee by Robert Herrick
When the First Summer Bee by Thom. Moore
Telling the Bees by John G. Whittier
The Humble Bee by Ralph. W. Emerson
Where the Bee Sucks by Edna P. Clarke
• Lepidoptera
– To a Butterfly by Wm. Wordsworth
– The Fate of a Butterfly by Ed. Spenser
– A Chrysalis by Mary Emily Bradley
Key Points
• Insects as singers
– 4 Functions of Acoustic Behavior
• Mechanisms for sound production
• Insects in Music, Art and Poetry
– A photographic tour