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Quotations about Insects

Welcome to my page of quotations about insects, worms, snails, and other beneficial (or pesky) little beings with whom we share the world.   SEE ALSO:  BEES BUTTERFLIES DRAGONFLIES FIREFLIES FLIES LADYBUGS MOSQUITOES SCORPIONS SPIDERS & WEBS GARDENS NATURE ANIMALS BIRDS  –Terri

We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics. ~Bill Vaughan in Kansas City Star, as quoted in The Reader's Digest, 1968

Jewel-bright grasshoppers buzzed around me, their wings aglitter. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018

I am regretful that in my growing up years bugs were not regarded seriously as now. I have to get my mind adjusted to the notion of taking them as important members of society, since in my green days they were brushed aside or stepped on without qualm. I didn't know that scholars gave their whole lives to studying worms, or work up a passionate fervor over spiders, or rhapsodize over bees. ~Dorothy Scarborough, "Entomology on a Country Porch," From a Southern Porch, 1919

The chirping cricket has ceased its noise, and is asleep in its hiding-place. A little white miller is flying about the light as though he thought it the most wonderful thing in the whole world.... That's right, sweet creature, rest yourself and slumber, if you please, on the corner of that Holy Bible. He who wrote that book is as much your Father, as He is mine. At this silent hour and in this solitary place, you have come to minister to my delight. The thoughts which you have caused will make my rest this night more peaceful than it would have been but for you. ~Charles Lanman, "Musings," 1840

It's a children's book... It's mostly about very small animals; the hero is a moss beetle. ~Noël Coward, Blithe Spirit: An Improbable Farce in Three Acts, 1941

The ideal home is one in which the human inhabitants multiplied by 50 outnumber the cockroaches divided by 100. ~H. L. Mencken, A Little Book in C Major, 1916

Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good,
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.
~Ogden Nash (1902–1971), "The Termite"

Murder hornets:  because 2020 wasn't bad enough. ~Internet meme

Whenever I come across any bug, that I don't know what they was built for, I don't blame the bug. I have great faith in anything that creeps, crawls, or even wiggles, and though I ain't been able to satisfy myself all about the usefulness of bed bugs, mosquitos, and striped snakes, I have faith that Divine Providence did not make them in vain. Faith is knowledge of the highest order. ~Josh Billings  [spelling standardized —tg]

Hurt no living thing:
Ladybird, nor butterfly,
Nor moth with dusty wing...
~Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830–1894)

The cricket is a small, black, ambulatory noise surrounded by a sentimental aura. On occasion it lives in the open fields, but its favorite habitat is behind a couch or under a bookcase in a room where somebody is trying to read. ~Hal Borland

Insects are attractive things and very human, or perhaps we men and women are like bugs. I have known dragon flies, swift-motioned, gleaming; and hornets, unbeautiful but effective; some people are like honeybees, engaged in sweet unselfish labors, while others are crickets that only chirp; some are butterflies, flashing in the pure light, while others are noisome, creeping things that lurk in dank shadows. Some persons are fireflies, lighting up dark places for others, while there are those who are house flies, inquisitive, annoying, noxious... Yet there isn't anybody who isn't interesting, and so there is no bug that doesn't repay you for studying it. I wonder what insect I am like?— my family would doubtless say a mosquito. ~Dorothy Scarborough, "Entomology on a Country Porch," From a Southern Porch, 1919

Large flocks of butterflies, all kinds of happy insects, seem to be in a perfect fever of joy and sportive gladness. ~John Muir, 1867 October 9th, A Thousand-Mile Walk To the Gulf

The chirping of crickets in the night
Is intermittent,
Like the twinkling of stars.
~Amy Lowell, "Nuit Blanche," Pictures of the Floating World, 1919

And a cloud of enraptured, sporting, buzzing little creatures of silk-dust swept or hovered over the undulating picture. ~Jean Paul Friedrich Richter, Hesperus, or Forty-Five Dog-Post-Days: A Biography, translated from German by Charles T. Brooks, 1865

What is a butterfly? At best
He's but a caterpiller drest.
~Benjamin Franklin, 1739

THE  ANT is a many footed insect that lives in large families... They have no legal holidays or 8-hour systems... nor sedentary loafers among them, and you never see one out of a job. They rise early, work hard all day, go to bed late and even take their meals on the run. ~Josh Billings, revised by H. Montague

While it is difficult to determine an excuse for existence on the part of some insects, there are others that are obviously pleasure bugs — June-bugs, for instance, honeybees and big black beetles with iridescent green that occasionally walk across the porch with attitudinizing mien; dragon flies with wings flashing in the sun, the evening ghost-like moths. ~Dorothy Scarborough, "Entomology on a Country Porch," From a Southern Porch, 1919  [a little altered –tg]

Pale moths come forth like ghosts of blooms... ~Madison Julius Cawein (1865–1914), "Solstice"

Francesca waved and threw kisses, for she was, after all, a roach beyond reproach. ~Ethel Pochocki (1925–2010), The Blessing of the Beasts, 2007

The conventional wisdom about insects has been that they are automatons — unthinking, unfeeling creatures whose behavior is entirely hardwired. But in the 1990s researchers began making startling discoveries about insect minds... Insects have surprisingly rich inner lives — a revelation that has wide-ranging ethical implications. ~Lars Chittka, "Do Insects Feel Joy and Pain?," Scientific American, 2023,

Bugs have as much right to a place in the shade as we do. ~Dorothy Scarborough, "Entomology on a Country Porch," From a Southern Porch, 1919  [a little altered –tg]

...ants like tiny black pearls tilt a leaf
Loaded with dew across a strenuous inch
Of earth...
~Joseph Auslander, "Letter to Sappho," 1920s

KATYDID  A gossiping grasshopper who is always meddling in Katy's affairs. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Foolish Dictionary, Executed by Gideon Wurdz, Master of Pholly, Doctor of Loquacious Lunacy, etc., 1904

The long wound of the summer—
by cicadas.
~Thomas McGrath, Open Songs, 1977

The night was awash with the screech of cicadas. These insects had reached the molting stage of their annual transformation. They first emerged in May as sluggish, flightless, dun-colored beetles, but after enough exposure to heat and sunlight, they would undergo an unpleasant metamorphosis. First they would find a tree or a house or a telephone pole and start to climb — slowly, clumsily, driven by mindless instinct — until they reached a particular height known only to themselves. They would cling tight, hold still, and gradually become translucent. Their outer skin would slough away. They would burst out through the napes of their former shells and rise into the sky as steel-spun creatures with wings as loud as joy buzzers. They left their spent husks everywhere. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018

The twilight is the morning of his day,
While sleep drops seaward from the fading shore,
With purpling sail and dip of silver oar,
He cheers the shadowed time with roundelay,
Until the dark east softens into gray...
~Edwin Markham, "The Cricket"

I saw a snail out of his shell to‑day... His house was much smaller than he was, which fact impressed me by its contrast to our modern scheme of tenantry. We who own houses have them disproportionately large in comparison with ourselves, so that we are tied down to them and unable to go about to view the world as this carefree snail may do at will. Think how simple is his arrangement for furnishing, — he is his own furniture! He has no need for interior decorators, and no thought of moving-day can enslave his soul. ~Dorothy Scarborough, "Entomology on a Country Porch," From a Southern Porch, 1919

Oh, if you're a bird, be an early bird
And catch the worm for your breakfast plate.
If you're a bird, be an early early bird—
But if you're a worm, sleep late.
~Shel Silverstein, "Early Bird," Where the Sidewalk Ends, 1974

We cannot say that crickets sing
Since all they do is twang a wing...
~Harry Behn (1898–1973), "Crickets," The Golden Hive, 1966

I would like to get lyrical on the subject of 5 A.M. in a garden, but it is not the paradise it should be, especially in early spring. The air is invigorating and at its freshest; the solitude is divine. The birds are happy, but, unfortunately, so are the gnats. The early bird may get the worm but the early gnat gets me. ~Ruth Stout, "The Second Season," How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back, 1955

The birds gave a picnic, the morning was fine,
They all came in couples, to chat and to dine...
The neighbors, of course, were politely invited,
Not even the ants or the crickets were slighted.
The grasshoppers came—some in gray, some in green,
And covered with dust, hardly fit to be seen;
Miss Miller flew in, with her gown white as milk;
And Ladybug flourished a new crimson silk.
The bees turned out lively, the young and the old,
And proud as could be, in their spencers of gold;
But Miss Caterpillar, how funny of her,
She hurried along in her mantle of fur!
There were big bugs in plenty, and gnats great and small—
A very hard matter to mention them all:
And what did they do? Why they sported and sang,
Till all the green wood with their melody rang...
And when the sun fell, like a cherry-ripe red,
The fire-flies lighted them all home to bed.
~George Cooper, "The Birds' Picnic," c.1869  [a little altered —tg]

The smallest insect is as important as the largest bear. ~Tom Brown, Jr.

HOUSE, n.  A hollow edifice erected for the habitation of man, rat, mouse, beetle, cockroach, fly, mosquito, flea, bacillus, and microbe. ~Ambrose Bierce

[L]ies are like cockroaches — if you see one, there are others. ~Nelson DeMille, Night Fall, 2004,

Three young uptown roaches arrived in a crate of discarded supermarket vegetables, hidden within the leaves of wilted lettuce. They fell over themselves gibbering and giggling and interrupting each other to answer Erasmus, the roach elder of the community. ~Ethel Pochocki (1925–2010), The Blessing of the Beasts, 2007  [a little altered —tg]

To get rid of COCKROACHES, sell your house and lot, for anything you can get for it, flee to the mountains, and be at rest. ~Josh Billings, revised by H. Montague

one thing that
shows that
insects are
superior to men
is the fact that
insects run their
affairs without
political campaigns
elections and so forth
~Don Marquis, "random thoughts by archy," archy s life of mehitabel, 1933

I have yet to see the first man who would acknowledge that he was the friend of a BED  BUG. A chinch is the most low down, meanest, sneakenest, crawling, creeping, hopping, biting thing that infests this old earth. They don't dare tackle a man in broad daylight but sneak in after dark, and chaw him up while he's fast asleep. Now, a mosquito will fight you to a finish in broad daylight, at short range and give you a chance to knock back — allow you a kind of a free ballot and a fair count... but a bed bug... waits till the dead hour of night... If I were in the habit of indulging in Sunday School expressions, I wouldn't hesitate to cuss a bed bug to a standstill right to his face... ~Josh Billings, revised by H. Montague & T. Guillemets

Flies tickle me, but they don't make me swear, it takes a bedbug, at the hollow of night, a mean, loafing bedbug, who steals out of a crack in the wall, as silently as the sweat on a dog's nose, and then creeps as soft as a shadow, onto my tenderest spot, and begins to bore — it takes one of these foul fiends of blood to make me swear, a word of two syllables. ~Josh Billings (1818–1885), "The Fly"  [spelling standardized and text a little altered —tg]

When Aeschylus or Tacitus seems tepid, open a Life of the Insects — a revelation of rage and futility, an inferno which, fortunately for us, will have neither a playwright nor a chronicler. What would remain of our tragedies if a literate bug were to offer us his? ~Emil M. Cioran, 1952, translated by Richard Howard  []

Little ants in leafy wood,
Bound by gentle Brotherhood...
~Edwin Markham, "Little Brothers of the Ground"

It occurs to me now that if these hardy, clever insects ever become as large as tigers, they will surely take over the world! ~R. D. Lawrence, "Lessons from Ants," A Shriek in the Forest Night: Wilderness Encounters, 1996

Crickets chirped slow:  could-be, could-be. ~Richard Bach, The Bridge Across Forever:  a lovestory, 1984

      This book of his is to be a plain treatment of life and evolution and what signs of a purpose may be in it all and, like Capek's play, only insects are to be in the cast. He is going to call it Thursday's Lesson, after the Fifth Day of Creation.
      Personally I hate insects. Nothing has ever frightened me so much in my life as a praying mantis that once sat up at me and hissed. I wish God had taken Thursday off for rest and refreshment and gone on perhaps after Sunday to make up for it, but as it is here they are and I suppose we have to kill as many as we can and make the best of the others. We get cochineal from them anyhow, honey, silk, valuable moral lessons and now an increasing amount of biological information. Foxfield says that without the fruit fly there would be no science of genetics worth talking about and that there is no general problem in his science that cannot be discussed most conveniently from etymological instances. And so I have merely stipulated that when the book is done he would not insist upon anything too repulsively creepy and crawly appearing on the outside wrapper. ~H. G. Wells, Apropos of Dolores, 1938

"They say a psychiatrist is crazy about her."
"Yes, and there's an entomologist who is bugs over her, too."
~Life, 1926

Bees, for example, can count, grasp concepts of sameness and difference, learn complex tasks by observing others, and know their own individual body dimensions, a capacity associated with consciousness in humans. They also appear to experience both pleasure and pain. In other words, it now looks like at least some species of insects — and maybe all of them — are sentient. ~Lars Chittka, "Do Insects Feel Joy and Pain?," Scientific American, 2023,

The hornet washed his peevish little face with his front legs and reminded me of a queer little old woman in antique garb, — bent over almost double, and with a sharp line of demarcation at his tight-corseted waist, and with his black and yellow petticoat drawn tight about his ankles. ~Dorothy Scarborough, "Entomology on a Country Porch," From a Southern Porch, 1919  [a little altered –tg]

HORN  A sharp point.
HORNET  Still sharper.
~Charles Wayland Towne, The Foolish Dictionary, Executed by Gideon Wurdz, Master of Pholly, Doctor of Loquacious Lunacy, etc., 1904

I like a HORNET for one thing. He will always attend to his own business and insist emphatically that you do likewise. ~Josh Billings, revised by H. Montague

THE  YELLOW  JACKET is 1st cousin to the wasp and a close relation to the black hornet... They are as yellow as gold; and when they get good and mad they blaze like forked lightning in a thunder storm. Don't go near a yellow jacket's nest, especially in August, unless your life is heavily insured. ~Josh Billings, revised by H. Montague

Within the tassels lie
Row upon withered row
Of wasp-nests, tenantless and dry—
Abandoned long ago.
~George Sands Bryan (1879–1943), "Country Burial"

The spider weaves a windy woof,
And cells of clay the mud-wasp packs.
~Madison J. Cawein (1865–1914), "The Haunted House"

Well! Hello down there,
friend snail! When did you arrive
in such a hurry?
~Issa, translated by Harry Behn, 1964

Hasn't modern civilized life come to be little else than a fight for life against bugs? ~Dorothy Scarborough, "Entomology on a Country Porch," From a Southern Porch, 1919

A beetle bug has bit my coat
      And ta'en a crescent moon,
      Whether to muffle round his throat
      Or felt a pair of shoon.
God knows I do not want the part.
      He 's welcome to 't with all my heart!
      Only, poor bug, I bid him 'ware
      November fierce and free!
The biting frost will soon be here
      To bite more sharp than he.
      If he 'll return, he shall have wool
      To round the crescent moon to full.
~Philip Henry Savage (1868–1899), "Posthumous Poems," The Poems of Philip Henry Savage, 1901

And all the long, hot summer day
The ceaseless locust dins its roundelay...
~Madison J. Cawein (1865–1914), "The Haunted House"

Locusts running sawmills in the trees... ~Dwight Hutchison, as quoted by The Reader's Digest, 1946

The Amazon rainforest has 2.5 million species of insects. That's more bugs than iOS 7. ~Internet meme, c.2013  [Windows Vista, Windows Me, Adobe Reader, IE6, or fill in the blank with your own most annoying software/upgrade. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

If a cricket needs a reason
For his wrinkled, vibrant singing,
I would reckon, not the season,
Not a mating call sent winging
Or that evolution grew it,
But, because he likes to do it!
~Gaston Burridge

If we were but conscious of our own utter littleness, we would not dare look with contempt on the smallest atom in the world. ~Charles Lanman, "Musings," 1840

Unfortunately, a vegetarian or vegan diet is not necessarily free of ethical concerns for the welfare of insects either. Many insects share our taste for the leaves, roots, vegetables and fruits of the plants that we consume. As a result, several million metric tons of pesticides are deployed every year worldwide to streamline the production of cheap food for maximum profit. These pesticides poison and kill countless insects (and many other animals), often by slow processes lasting several days. ~Lars Chittka, "Do Insects Feel Joy and Pain?," Scientific American, 2023,

The cicadas shrieked
As the glowing sky consumed
Their last evening.
~Dag Hammarskjöld, 1959, translated from the Swedish by Leif Sjöberg and W. H. Auden, Markings, 1964

Into each life some ants must crawl. ~Terri Guillemets  [Apologies, Mr Longfellow. —tg]

In truth, I don't mind the wood cockroaches that come in on my firewood... Their digestive system and mine differ enough so that we don't share the same ecological niche; they do me no harm, we are not competing, so I can take a long view of them. There is no need to harry them as a bee would, or to squash them as a housewife would. Instead, I stoop down beside them and take a closer look, examining them carefully. After all, having in my cabin a harmless visitor whose structure evolution has barely touched since Upper Carboniferous days strikes me, a representative of an upstart and tentative experiment in living form, as a highly instructive event. Two hundred and fifty million years, after all, is a very long view indeed. ~Sue Hubbell, A Country Year: Living the Questions, 1986

      There are always American cockroaches in beehives. Like human houses, beehives are warm, snug places, well-stocked with food, and roaches live there if they can get away with it. When a colony of bees is active, healthy and strong, the bees will not tolerate roaches any more willingly than does a fussy housekeeper. I have often watched honeybees chasing cockroaches out of their hives, and have also seen them carrying out roach egg cases and dropping them some distance away, recognizing that they are objects inappropriate to a well-regulated bee colony. There is constant strife between the two species. The bees are vigilant and aggressive, but the roaches are always there, and at the least drop in hive strength or morale, they take over. They are opportunists.
      In the past few years, I have left off killing cockroaches when I open a beehive. I now know that a good colony of bees can take care of them on their own better than I can. And if a colony is not a good one, I had better find out what is wrong with it rather than kill its roaches. ~Sue Hubbell, A Country Year: Living the Questions, 1986

I know intelligent design doesn't exist because whoever gave sewer roaches wings wasn't very bright. ~Terri Guillemets

Indeed, second only to humans — who have slaughtered more of their own kind than has any other living organism — fleas are almost certainly the most dangerous creatures on earth. ~R. D. Lawrence, "Close Encounters with Ticks and Fleas," A Shriek in the Forest Night: Wilderness Encounters, 1996

Lampyris noctiluca is a paralyzing insect. Before he begins to feast, the Glow-worm administers an anæsthetic: he chloroforms his victim, rivalling the wonders of our modern surgery, which renders the patient insensible before operating on him. The usual game is a small Snail hardly the size of a cherry. The insect repeatedly taps the Snail's mantle with its instrument — the weapon is two mandibles bent back powerfully into a hook, very sharp and thin as a hair. It all happens with such gentleness as to suggest kisses rather than bites. The Lampyris doles out his tweaksies, distributing them methodically, without hurrying — half-a-dozen, at most — to induce general torpor, a sort of deep drunkenness. Humans' operators proceed by making us inhale the fumes of ether or chloroform; the insect injects a special virus that comes from the mandibular fangs in infinitesimal doses. We know that humble little animals can produce complete anæsthesia in their patients; human science did not in reality invent this art. Animal knowledge had a long start of ours. And one day we will understand the beastie's secrets even better! What glorious discoveries the future has in store for us. ~J. Henri Fabre, The Glow-Worm and Other Beetles, translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, 1919  [altered —tg]

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published 2003 Sep 28
revised 2021 Mar 17
last saved 2024 May 2