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Inspiration for Writers: Insects and the Emotions They Evoke

Updated on May 12, 2016
Beach at Cape May
Beach at Cape May | Source

How to Use, in Your Writing, the Emotions That Insects Evoke

As we all know, insects can cause a great variety of emotions and moods. Writers, therefore, could use insects (and spiders) to evoke the emotions and moods they want or need. Moreover, the reactions of the characters in a story when meeting an insect give insight into the personalities of those characters.

Here I shall mention various negative and positive moods with examples of how insects bring them about.

I also give examples of how writers in the far and recent past have let themselves be inspired by insects.

About the picture:

Cape May, New Jersey, is among the oldest American seaside resorts, hosting vacationers from the mid-Atlantic region from the 18th century forward. In this drawing, Miller pokes gentle fun at leisure travelers. Two men seated on folding stools sit on the sand despite clouds of annoying insects.

The handwritten caption reads:

Consolation for the afflicted!-who cannot go to Cape May,-viz- "Can't get away Club", -"when there is a land breeze,-two gangs of mosquitoes are laid on!!-the wide-awake squad, reserved for the night!!!"

A spider on the ceiling
A spider on the ceiling | Source

Negative Moods


Have you ever walked face forward into a cobweb? How did your react? I bet that in the first instance you had a fright. Probably you wiped, somewhat panicky, the sticky stuff out of your face. But afterwards you may have laughed about your fear.

A similar reaction of fear can occur when an insect or spider happens upon someones naked flesh when he or she is sunbathing. Dependent on the characters personality, the man or woman will recover rapidly and remove the insect or watch it with curiosity. But, he could also jump up, screaming in a panic and beat the insect off him.


The sudden flutter of a moth at night can startle us. This could be used to show how nervous our hero is. He breaks into a house and sneaks around in order not to wake anyone. Total silence prevails. His heart thumps in his ears. But then ... a moth flutters past his head.


Your hero, an arachnophobe, is tied to a chair. He notices a large spider on the ground, or even worse, on the ceiling, crawling in his direction. He cannot do anything, nor is he able to flee ...

Or, someone disturbed a wasps nest and the wasps appear rapidly, one by one ...


A fly that buzzes around you and decides, even after you have shooed it away time and again, to sit on your hand while you are working at the computer, or a mosquito that keeps you awake at night. I'm sure most people will become highly irritated by this.


Someone opens the door to an old shed. A terrible smell hits him and immediately he is surrounded by a great mass of bluebottles. He lashes out wildly. A body, he thinks, there must be a dead body. But of what - or whose?

Or, an old lady walks in the woods and notices something half buried under autumn leaves. She pushes some of the leaves away with her shoe. It appears to be a dead dog. Then she sees the maggots that crawl all over the dead body.

An emerging butterfly
An emerging butterfly | Source

Positive Moods


A summer evening. The sun has just set. It is still warm, and quiet. A man and a woman sit outside on a bench, he with his arms around her. They do not speak, but listen to the silence. Then a cricket begins to chirp ... Ah!

It is a warm day in summer. Someone sits by an open window reading a book. A blowfly flies into the room and buzzes about, until she disappears again, while a group of houseflies makes irregular circles underneath the ceiling-light.


The ladybug is seen as the insect that heralds good fortune and luck.


A child witnesses a butterfly coming out of a pupa. Or someone is surprised by seeing an ant carrying a leaf that weighs many times its own weight.


When in spring you see the first, beautifully coloured butterfly flying by.


You observe the first bumblebee of the year and you know: spring will arrive soon.

An Emerging Dragonfly Gives a Good Feeling

Some Writers From Far and Recent Past Have Let Themselves Been Inspired by Insects

Stay near me - do not take thy flight!
A little longer stay in sight!
Much converse do I find in thee,
Historian of my infancy!
Float near me; do not yet depart! Dead times revive in thee:
Thou bring'st, gay creature as thou art!
A solemn image to my heart,
My father's family!

This is the first of two strophes of the poem To a butterfly (first poem) by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Did Your Skin Crawl, or Have You Become Inspired?

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