23–29 June is National Insect Week, a bi-annual celebration of all-things creepy crawly

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  • Elinor Bellingham-Smith, 'Dragon-Flies' 1947-8

    Dragonflies are enigmatic, but powerful and acrobatic hunters are some of the oldest insects on Earth, whose mysterious aura means that they are so often the subject of folklore and legend.
    Elinor Bellingham-Smith
    Dragon-Flies 1947-8
    Oil on canvas
    support: 610 x 914 mm
    Purchased 1948 The estate of Elinor Bellingham-Smith

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  • Henry Alexander Bowler, 'The Doubt: 'Can these Dry Bones Live?'' exhibited 1855

    Insects’ fascinating metamorphic life cycle is often an inspiration to artists, who use them as a symbol for rebirth, as well as ethereality, mystery, beauty and peace.
    Henry Alexander Bowler
    The Doubt: 'Can these Dry Bones Live?' exhibited 1855
    Oil on canvas
    support: 610 x 508 mm frame: 788 x 685 x 100 mm
    Presented by H. Archer Bowler 1921

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  • Fiona Banner, 'Swarm' 2000

    There are many misnomers surrounding insects. The word 'swarm' is often used to evoke fear, however, contrary to popular belief, a honey bee swarm is a benign, peaceful and malleable entity.
    Fiona Banner
    Swarm 2000
    Etching on paper
    plate: 230 x 180 mm
    Purchased 2001 Fiona Banner

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  • Mark Wallinger, 'King Edward and the Colorado Beetle' 2000

    All too often, insects receive negative attention whenever their lifestyles encroach on ours, however it is also important to credit them with the significant contributions they make to our world, such as food and flower pollination.
    Mark Wallinger
    King Edward and the Colorado Beetle 2000
    Potato print on paper
    support: 405 x 305 mm
    Purchased 2001 Mark Wallinger

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  • Yinka Shonibare, MBE, 'Grain Weevil' 2000

    Insects are often seen as annoying pests, but their presence and contribution to a healthy ecology should never be ignored, especially as they themselves can be important pest controllers, such as the aphid-eating ladybird.
    Yinka Shonibare, MBE
    Grain Weevil 2000
    Lithograph and varnish on board
    support: 305 x 405 mm
    Purchased 2001 Yinka Shonibare, courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

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  • John Stezaker, 'Untitled' 1989

    Moths are often seen, as in this piece, as dull, ugly night flying insects, blighting the beauty of their cousins, the butterflies, however many moths are day-flying and breathtaking, such as the agile and beautiful hummingbird hawk moth. John Stezaker
    Untitled 1989
    Collage on paper
    unconfirmed: 235 x 165 mm
    Purchased 2007 John Stezaker

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  • Jeff Koons, 'Caterpillar (with chains)' 2002

    Insects are seen as the child-like obsession of infants, but in reality there are armies of adults, who form clubs, groups and organisations, such as the Amateur Entomologists’ Society and who remain 'in love' with and fascinated by the smaller things in life.
    Jeff Koons
    Caterpillar (with chains) 2002
    Polychromed aluminium and rubber coated steel
    object: 470 x 1945 x 1100 mm
    ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 Jeff Koons

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  • Edward Calvert, 'The Brook' 1829

    This piece has a beautiful and ethereal quality, emphasised by the artist’s inclusion of strong iconic images representing similar themes, such as mystery, elusiveness and beauty – honey bees.
    Edward Calvert
    The Brook 1829
    Wood-engraving on paper
    image: 51 x 89 mm
    Presented by S. Calvert 1912

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  • Hannah Starkey, 'Butterfly Catchers' 1999

    The absence of insects in this painting is a shocking indictment of the modern world, where, due to habitat loss, pesticide use, industrialisation and even persecution, invertebrate populations continue to decline at an alarming and potentially unstoppable rate.
    Hannah Starkey
    Butterfly Catchers 1999
    Colour photograph on paper on aluminium
    image: 1220 x 1600 mm frame: 1265 x 1645 x 40 mm
    Purchased 2001 Hannah Starkey, courtesy Maureen Paley / Interim Art, London

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  • Thomas Weaver, 'Foxgloves and Brambles, with a Hawk Confronting an Adder' 1814

    This beautiful and detailed painting featuring butterflies and damselflies, as well as other animals, represents the traditional Natural-History style of art that has enjoyed a huge renaissance in recent years, encouraged by the trend to celebrate and pay homage to the natural world through a more scientific and accurate artistic approach and style.
    Thomas Weaver
    Foxgloves and Brambles, with a Hawk Confronting an Adder 1814
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1118 x 943 mm frame: 1215 x 1050 mm
    Purchased 1972

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  • Stephen Cox, 'Chrysalis' 1989-91

    For such small beings, there are few images in the natural world that represent and evoke more powerful imagery, symbolism and mystery, than an insect’s chrysalis.
    Stephen Cox
    Chrysalis 1989-91
    Porphyry
    object: 920 x 2850 x 1000 mm
    Purchased 1992 Stephen Cox

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  • Joe Tilson, 'Mysterious Principles of the Blue Bag' 1973

    Here, the inclusion of the bee, along with the words 'breathe', 'cloud' and 'heather' is a stark reminder of how insects are a direct, accurate and true reflection of the health of our global ecosystems.
    Joe Tilson
    Mysterious Principles of the Blue Bag 1973
    Screenprint and mixed media on paper
    support: 1013 x 705 mm
    Presented by Rose and Chris Prater through the Institute of Contemporary Prints 1975 Joe Tilson. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2002

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Reviled or revered, how do artists who feature in Tate’s collection treat these mysterious minibeasts? Wildlife and Natural History artist Cath Hodsman explores this question within the captions of her handpicked slideshow.

Browse more insects in Tate’s collection.