The Swarm

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Conservation of Ninjutsu is not going to apply here.


What's worse than one big man-eating monster?

A whole hell of a lot of little ones.

With monsters, bigger is not always better. Sometimes tiny can be terrifying if you have overwhelming numbers working for you. Nature has plenty of examples of this and many of them have found their way into the movies. Swarming bees, ants, locusts, piranha, etc. have all frightened moviegoers. Sci-Fi and Horror have added swarming terrors that go beyond things found in the back yard.

The promise of Nanotechnology also has a dark side. Microscopic machines rampaging across the countryside disassembling everything they encounter in their quest for raw materials with which to bolster their numbers is the latest paranoid fantasy. Alien creatures brought back to Earth because they were tiny and thought safe can multiply at prodigious rates to become a ravening horde consuming everything in their path.

The Swarm can also ramp up the horror by having the tiny critters invade the bodies of their victims through any convenient orifice so the victim can be consumed from the inside out.

Sometimes overlaps with Hive Mind if all the swarm share one mind. Alternately a Mind Hive controlled swarm serve as Animal Eye Spies to one external controller. If they take a humanoid form, they could be The Worm That Walks. Tactics typically take the form of the Zerg Rush. Often found in a Hornet Hole. When they are aliens then its also Horde of Alien Locusts

Examples of The Swarm include:


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Swarm, the Nazi Made Of Bees, appeared once as a vast supercolony and was promptly taken out by the Thunderbolts.
  • This is essentially how Ultimate Galactus works, though scale is a bit off as every member of the swarm is the size of Taipei 101 and their victim is an entire planet.
  • The Flea from PS238 has the power to control insects, and he's used this as an offensive weapon on several occasions.

Film[edit | hide]

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Prey: Crichton's 2004 thriller on collectively adapting swarms of nano-machines programed with predatory behavior, eventually reveals that they can self replicate using specialized E. Coli colonies, AND they can slip through cracks, vents, even your pores. What could possibly go wrong?
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Straight Silver, when Ghosts are traveling through a tunnel behind enemy lines, they are swarmed by rats. Although none of them are killed, most are bitten, and one, overrun, was bitten several times and deeply horrified.
  • The War Against the Chtorr. The shambler trees are host to an entire ecology of carniverous symbiotes who swarm when they sense the vibrations of nearby prey.
  • The German novel Der Schwarm which translates literally into The Swarm features the Yrr, a collective of one-cell beings that live in the deep sea and can combine into intelligent beings. They try to eradicate humanity for destroying the environment.
  • In the Courts of the Crimson Kings. The Rodents of Unusual Size are this way, shocking the protagonist who'd assumed that meant unusually large size—not small, voracious and existing in vast numbers.
  • The Edge Chronicles: Wig-wigs. They're small. They're fluffy. They have huge mouths with rows of razor sharp teeth. And there's hundreds of them.
  • "Leiningen Versus the Ants", a short story by Carl Stephenson, is about a Brazilian plantation owner who takes on a mass of army ants. Adapted for an episode of the Escape radio program, the movie The Naked Jungle, and even an episode of MacGyver.
  • The Silver Threads in Dragonriders of Pern .
  • "Sandkings", a short story by George R. R. Martin, which was adapted (with numerous changes) into an Outer Limits episode. Simon Kress, a rich and vain Jerkass whose hobby is collecting dangerous pets, stops into The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday, and purchases four groups of the titular insectoids. The shopkeeper tells him that they will literally worship him by carving his likeness into their sandcastles, and the four "armies" will make war upon each other, for Simon's amusement. The shopkeeper also warns him to be patient, to give them time to grow and mature, and to treat them well. He isn't, and he doesn't.
  • The third book of A Series of Unfortunate Events has Lachrymose leeches, which swarm the poor fools who violate the 'Wait an hour before going swimming rule.
  • Remember The Bible's 10 plagues of Egypt? Plague #2 was frogs, plague #3 was gnats/lice/fleas, plague #4 was flies or wild animals (depending on the interpretation), and plague #8 was locusts.

Live Action TV[edit | hide]

"Daleks, aim for the eyestalk; Sontarans, back of the neck. Vashta Nerada? ...Run. Just run."

  • Primeval. The anurognathus work like this. They're even compared to piranhas by the characters.
  • Stargate SG-1 Prior Bugs or R75 are made this by thoughtless research, Fridge Logic has the echolocation-prone death machine kill everyone and reproduce infinity-fold rather than thousand-fold but somehow avoid SG-1 and their special guests until they manage to beckon the Prometheus to teleport them into safety
  • The Sandkings, the first episode in the later 90s version of The Outer Limits are a swarm that digs through sand and builds things in them and... ITS FULL HORROR!!!
  • Smallville had an episode with a lady who could control bees.
  • The X-Files: in one of the most purely terrifying episodes ever aired (...in any series, ever), season one's Darkness Falls tells the story of a previously-unknown, multi-hundred thousand year old species of web-weaving insects that cocoon their animal victims before draining them of their vital fluids...and which only come out at night, as well, thus adding another primal fear to the situation. By the end, just how frightening were they...? When the forces of the Shadow Government, operating under the auspices of an environmental hazard unit, arrive and make it clear to a traumatized-by-attack yet slowly recovering Mulder that they will stop at nothing to end the creatures' threat...you realize that you're thanking God for the erstwhile fascists.
  • Infested is a Truth in Television documentary series about people's homes being overrun by spiders, ants, snakes, or other undesirable critters. While seldom lethal, such Real Life incidents can certainly render a property uninhabitable.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • In Dungeons and Dragons, the way the rules are set up there's no logical way for bug-sized or even normal-rat-sized creatures to be properly threatening even to first level characters...hence, the Swarm type. Depending on the size of the individual creatures involved, swarms can resist and even be immune to damage that isn't an area attack.
    • In Fourth Edition, Druids have an optional class feature that lets them become one when Wild Shaped. Swarm Druids are extremely tough, enough to act as secondary defenders.
    • 3.5 Druids have a Prestige Class called Swarm Lord. They can shapeshift into swarms and control them-normally swarms and vermin are off limits to druids.
  • Both Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40000 have swarm units. They are typically represented by a large base with many models on it, counting as one multi-wounded model. They also tend to be cheap, so these swarms tend to be fairly big.
    • Tyranids from 40,000 have weapons that shoot a number of small creatures at an enemy to eat it to death.
  • Quite a few cards in Magic: The Gathering are meant to reflect this trope, but the Slivers do it best. In general terms, for each Sliver in play, all Slivers in play get stronger, whether just more powerful and tougher, or gaining new abilities.
    • The original Magic Swarm is Plague Rats, whose power and toughness were both equal to the number of Plague Rats in play. Long after the Obvious Rule Patch that limited copies of a single card to 4 per 60-card deck, they made an updated version called Relentless Rats.
  • In Traveller there is a small planet called Nifhleim that is completely covered with mysterious microscopic creatures(either biological or robotic). Anything that comes to the surface is devoured in hours.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Bee enemies in Banjo-Kazooie.
  • The Scrin in Command & Conquer 3: Tiberian Wars have an eponymous special power that allows them to instantaneously summon several Buzzer swarms anywhere on the map.
  • In BioShock (series) series, the "Insect Swarm" Plasmid allows you to release a swarm of bees from your hand.
  • The Flood from the Halo series certainly qualify. Heck, the Fore Runners found them so overwhelming, they had to annihilate all bio matter in the galaxy just to keep them from spreading farther than that.
  • Ingstorms in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.
    • Also Parasites, Scarabs, Tallon Crabs and Lumigeks in the original Prime. There's quite a lot of small weak enemies that appear in large numbers in the game. They're not quite as deadly as Ingstorms tho (doing only minor damage while Ingstorms will kill you really quick without the Light Suit).
  • Known derisively as 'blobbing' in EVE Online this is the primary tactic of the infamous Goonswarm alliance leading to their adoption of the Bee as an emblem. Don't let that fool you, the Goons have some very competent players and strategists but the alliance structure is such that the majority simply default to the 'Jihadswarm' approach.
  • In Dragon Age, Morrigan and other mages with the Shapeshifter specialization can become one. If they master their shapeshifting, they even can drain life from nearby enemies.
  • During one area of Ratchet and Clank : A Crack in Time, you have to avoid invincible swarms of tiny, jabbering critters called Tetramites. Unlike every other source of damage, Tetramites will constantly damage Ratchet and slow him down if they touch him. The creepy music that accompanies their appearance drives the point home that you've got only three options- shoot some water to repel them, use plant nectar to distract them, or run like hell.
  • In both Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 2: In the first one (only in a cutscene): crawlers, cockroach-like things that infect someone by getting in one's body en masse and in the second one: during a level, you are chased by an invincible swarm of flying, razor-sharp bugs(according to intel, evolved crawlers from the 1st game)that are invulnerable to boot.
  • Alien Swarm gives us the swarm.
  • The Zerg, in Starcraft.
  • Arachnophobics have been known to have a hard time getting through some levels of the Tomb Raider games. The latest one, Underworld, had swarms of spiders in the earlier levels that Lara had to shake off, and then human-sized tarantulas, that, once shot and killed, burst into a nausea-inducing mess that looks unsettlingly like what a dead tarantula might look like in real life.
  • Mass Effect 2. In the Suicide Mission, you must navigate through a corridor of Collector Swarms that will kill you. If you don't pick the right biotic for the job, one of your squadmates will be killed by the swarm. Shepard also runs for dear life back to the Normandy at the very end away from the swarm and other Collectors.

Web Original[edit | hide]

Western Animation[edit | hide]

"I send the Swarm! I send the Horde! Thus saith the Lord!"

Other[edit | hide]

  • Technically, Zaktan from Bionicle, although he usually functions as The Worm That Walks. When his old boss tried to vaporize him, he was somehow able to pull himself back together as microscopic "protodites". In this new, permanent state, Zaktan can easily avoid attacks by turning into an insect swarm; change the shape of body parts; heal damage by filling the gaps with Protodites; and engulf a foe in an attack that must feel like getting hit with thousands of needles. Zaktan himself calls it a curse however, as his voice now sounds like a crowd speaking; and whenever he wakes up he can feel his body shifting "where there once were tissue and solid metal".
    • Don't forget the Bohrok. Actually called The Swarm.
    • Also the Visorak.

Truth in Television[edit | hide]

  • Hymenoptera, the order of Insecta that includes bees, wasps, and ants, is responsible for more lethal attacks on humans than any other animal on the planet.
  • Among vertebrates, flocks of birds often use "mobbing" tactics to chase off predatory birds. Small songbirds do this to crows, and crows do it to hawks.
  • Sadly, many paranoid schizophrenics have delusions of insects coming out of their bodies to torment them, leading them to cut, scratch and otherwise hurt themselves to get rid of the insects that they imagine are there.
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