Fallacies in Pest-Centered Films – Part 1
Hollywood has its fair share of movies centered around arthropods. However, many of these films are also plagued with some misinformation regarding their pest-protagonists (or antagonists). In this blog we explore a few animated films about Hymenoptera (an order of insects including ants, wasps, and bees).
A Bug’s Life (1998)
This cute film was born from the same creative minds of the masterpiece that is the Toy Story franchise. Similar to the Toy Story films, the animators adapted the true anatomy of their various arthropod characters to appear human-esque in order to connect to the audience and be able to tell the story with visible human emotions and ideas. However, this obvious caveat aside, there is another major flaw in the story that stands out to many entomologists as wholly inaccurate.
The film centers primarily around the fate of a particular ant colony and their survival. True to their nature, very social creatures, operating in tandem with their colony to create an impressive and highly functional society. However, the rag-tag group of circus performing arthropods that gets wrapped up in the political mess of the colony are far from social creatures in real life. The group consists of a black widow spider, a caterpillar, a ladybug, a moth, a pair of roly polys, a stick bug, and a praying mantis. While this variety of arthropods and their unique features make for a very fun film, in nature, these creatures are very solitary and, if they weren’t actively avoiding each other, they may actually kill or consume one another.
Just around the same time as the release of A Bugs Life, DreamWorks Animation Studios came out with their own film about ants… aptly titled: Antz. While this movie has its fair share of inaccuracies regarding insects, one of its glaring flaws garnered the attention of entomologists even prior to the films actual release date. What was this glaring flaw…? Anatomical flaws.
Similar to the creators behind A Bugs Life, the animators of Antz wanted to anthropomorphize their characters. As such, they added a few features to their animations that are extremely inaccurate. For starters, each character is outfitted with two sets of “feet” and a pair of hands (well… at least they got the number of limbs correct unlike A Bug’s Life whose ants have four legs instead of six). In reality, ants do not possess feet with toes, nor do they have hands (…and thank goodness for that because that would be very creepy). In addition to the inaccurate limbs, was the omission of pinchers on the face and, instead a human-esque mouth in its place complete with a full set of human teeth.
Bee Movie (2007)
In this film, animators explored the inside of a honeybee hive with a cast of wild and fun characters. Aside from many glaring fictional moments in the film including bees talking to humans, bee universities, and bees even going on trial in a court room, there is one anatomical error that had many entomologists scratching their heads.
In a heated scene in a court room one bee, known as Adam Flayman, becomes particularly upset at a lawyer and, in the heat of anger, ends up stinging him. In reality, the stingers on bees are barbed, so if it’s inserted into a tough surface, like the skin of humans or other mammals, it gets stuck. Then, when the bee dislodges from its target, the stinger will remain in the victim’s skin, ripping out of the bee. Unfortunately for the bee, it’s not only the stinger that goes… the abdomen actually tears open leaving behind the venom sack (which is attached to the stinger) along with some muscles, part of its digestive tract, and nervous system. This dismantling of the bee’s innards is the reason why bees die after stinging us once.
However, twisting reality, Adam Flayman completely survives the encounter, and no one ever mentions a dismantling of his insides. Though this is probably due to the fact that it is a children’s film, it is still an inaccurate representation of bees.