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I am trying to track down a short story (possibly from a sci-fi or fantasy anthology) that I remember reading in the late 1980s/early 1990s, with a plot broadly similar to the classic story "Leiningen Versus the Ants", but it is not that story.

As I recall, the story begins with the point of view of an insect noting that it was time to move on because their food supplies were exhausted. Most of the story is then from the PoV of a family of farmers, who are alerted to the arrival of the swarm of insects when the daughter comes running in from the fields covered in insects, with the father having to almost drown the daughter to get rid of them.

I then remember the family desperately digging moats around their farmhouse using whatever tools available, even bare hands, until finally collapsing with exhaustion when they are done. But the insects manage to overwhelm the moats by using their drowned bodies as a bridge, and the story ends with the families corpses being picked to the bone.


Interesting, but what actually about this makes it sci-fi or fantasy? Like, were the insects bio-engineered, or anything like that? Did it have sci-fi or fantastical elements? Or were they "normal" insects?

The main thing I remember was that the insects appeared to be intelligent, because the opening scene was from their PoV. Other than that there was no explicit sci-fi or fantasy elements that I remember. But at that age I pretty much exclusively read sci-fi and fantasy, which is the main reason why I feel the story would have originated from that context.

...it's perhaps possible that the farmers were actually colonists on some alien planet, but again, if so, this setting was not made a major focus of the story.

  • Interesting, but what actually about this makes it sci-fi or fantasy? Like, were the insects bio-engineered, or anything like that? Did it have sci-fi or fantastical elements? Or were they "normal" insects? – Möoz Aug 7 '18 at 3:57
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    Good question. The main thing I remember was that the insects appeared to be intelligent, because the opening scene was from their PoV. Other than that there was no explicit sci-fi or fantasy elements that I remember. But at that age I pretty much exclusively read sci-fi and fantasy, which is the main reason why I feel the story would have originated from that context. – Terry Aug 7 '18 at 4:22
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    .... it's perhaps possible that the farmers were actually colonists on some alien planet, but again, if so, this setting was not made a major focus of the story. – Terry Aug 7 '18 at 4:24
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    Can you edit these points into the post? – Edlothiad Aug 7 '18 at 4:57
  • IMHO it is very rare or even impossible for a family of humans including adults to be killed & eaten by a horde of insects. it is considered improbable for army ants to kill humans askentomologists.com/2015/07/01/… pestwiki.com/army-ants-facts So it seems to me that a real family would have been safe if they ran away from army ants instead of staying in their house. Thus the story may happen in an alternate universe where insect swarms are more dangerous, like in "Leiningen vs the Ants". Continued. – M. A. Golding Aug 7 '18 at 18:51
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Your description reminds me of "Locusts" by Guy N. Smith

It's about a family of farmers that end up getting overwhelmed by a plague of locusts.
For a book about getting killed by locusts there was a lot of sex in it. I'm pretty sure the daughter had her clothes eaten by the locusts in the scene you remembered.

Amazon has the opening few pages.

Alan Alton and family move into the Shropshire hills to run a smallholding. One item that they take with them is completely forgotten in the hassle, namely a crate of peaches sent by an American relative, which also happens to contain a few Pennsylvanian locusts. Joining these are more locusts which flew north into the country due to the prolonged heatwave. Soon these few reproduce into many, into huge swarms which start devouring whatever they can find, and Britain wakes up to a state of emergency.

Blurb from Goodreads

Locusts front cover

  • Wow... that guy really took a theme and ran with it, looking at his publishing history. – FuzzyBoots Aug 7 '18 at 9:57
  • Wow, that is indeed very similar thematically, but for some reason I remember the story being much shorter, having no gratuitous sex, and ending with the farmers being eaten. Maybe I found a short story that was heavily influenced by this book? – Terry Aug 7 '18 at 17:14

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