The Staff of Swarming Insects (DMG, pp 203) allows you to :

Spend an action...to cause a swarm of harmless flying insects to spread out in a 30'foot radius from you.

It also allows you to cast Giant Insect, which states:

You transform up to ten centipedes, three spiders, five wasps, or one scorpion within range into giant versions of their natural forms for the duration.

Could the wasps be generated from the "harmless flying insects"? Or is "harmless" the key word here?

It also has states this on targets:

The DM might allow you to choose different targets. For example, if you transform a bee, its giant version might have the same statistics as a giant wasp.

Otherwise, Giant Insect is really situational and dependent on those insect types being around!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Arguably, 10 centipedes or 3 spiders could be considered harmless insects, though "flying" may restrict this interpretation \$\endgroup\$ Jul 5, 2017 at 17:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @B.S.Morganstein Yup - that's why I went for the Wasps :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jul 5, 2017 at 17:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mm, I suspect this is going to be a RAW - probably not, RAI- maybe. I'm happy to post a full answer explaining if you'd be open to a RAI answer \$\endgroup\$ Jul 5, 2017 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @B.S.Morganstein I generally like RAW, but RAI and other types are interesting if you have good support for them. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jul 5, 2017 at 17:55

4 Answers 4


Giant Insect can target the generated insects...

The item specifies that the insects must be harmless when generated, but makes no stipulation that they must stay that way. Wasps generated by the first ability would seem to be a valid target for Giant Insect.

...but you may not be able to generate wasps

The first ability states that you create a swarm of harmless flying insects, but does not give you control over the type of insects generated. Furthermore, a swarm of wasps is listed in the Monster Manual, has a CR of 1/2, and is far from harmless. Whether a "harmless"(i.e. sub-swarm) number of wasps could be generated for future targeting by Giant Insect is entirely under the DM's purview.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 But swarms aren't just about number. Bats and rats call out that the stat block represents a supernatural threat, not a normal grouping of beasts. Whether a swarm of wasps meets the 1/2 CR naturally will depend on the wasps used. The ones I group up around definitely qualify. The native pollinators where I live now are mostly harmless. \$\endgroup\$
    – raithyn
    Feb 23, 2021 at 21:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @raithyn - Interesting! I wasn't aware there was any such lore surrounding swarms. "DM purview" still stands, though, to my mind (and yours, sounds like). Personally if this happened at my table I'd be very tempted to apply the "rule of cool" :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Conduit
    Feb 24, 2021 at 18:52

RAW - Probably not.

The staff creates a swarm of :

...harmless flying insects...

Thus, there are 2 characteristics of the insects created: they are both harmless and flying.

The second Giant Insect ability is limited to:

...up to ten centipedes, three spiders, five wasps, or one scorpion...

The only one of these that is flying are the wasps. It would then come down to an interpretation of the word "harmless" and as a DM I would probably rule that wasps would widely considered to be harmful insects (especially when compared to the harmless gnat-like creatures I would envision as being created on a plain reading and imagining of insect swarm. A swarm of wasps are also included in the MM with a CR of 1/2, so I don't think they would be "harmless").

RAI - Probably not.

Here it would again come down to the word "harmless". In the grand scheme of harms in a magical DnD world, wasps could be characterized as harmless, especially since a level 1 character would presumably be able to kill wasps without taking much damage (if any).

As such, I could see a DM being open to an argument along these lines, though ultimately I would probably still rule against it. The language describing the Staff of Swarming Insects likely would have been clearer if this was indeed the intention of the game designers (eg "you may turn up to 10 of these insects into a giant version of any of the following: 10 centipedes..."). It is also important to remember that a swarm of wasps is dangerous to lower level characters (especially level 1 characters). So while I would rule it could not be used in this way, it would ultimately be up to the DM.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I have to disagree with the second part, RAI would coincide with RAW. A swarm of wasps is not harmless, therefore cannot be summoned by the staff. A lv 1 character that encounters a swarm of wasps is probably dead. A single hit from the swarm would kill over half the lv 1 classes. And very few lv1 characters can dish out 22 damage fast enough. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2017 at 5:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin Another reason why I would ultimately rule against it ;) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2017 at 13:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ then don't send mixed signals with "maybe". Make your point and stand by it. -- Expert advice such as expected from a stack answer should be precise, actionable and unambiguous. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2017 at 16:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ And please, get some lv1 premade characters and make 1 x 1 head on head mock battles between them and the wasp swarm. you will see that "without taking much damage (if any) is a fallacy. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2017 at 16:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin While I agree it could be somewhat ambiguous, since it is ultimately up to the DM, I think my answer has done justice to the ability of the DM to rule as they please. I did explain that I would rule against it, though I can make this clearer in both the subtitle and my explanation \$\endgroup\$ Jul 6, 2017 at 16:09

As has been stated before, probably not.

Wasps are fundamentally not harmless. Swarms of wasps are obviously non-harmless, but people do occasionally die from even single wasp stings (generally because they are allergic). Indeed, looking at the list of "insects" that can be made giant, it seems like the not being harmless is kind of the point. Every one of those can carry powerful venoms.

There are other ways to have insects on hand

You can just... bring them along. People keep scorpions as pets in the real world, after all. You could acquire a ring of spell storing and someone who's willing to cast Find Familiar into it and make sure that at least three of your fellow party members pick "spider". If you happen to be a Druid, you could potentially use a combination of Speak With Animals and Diplomacy checks to convince a swarm of wasps to follow you around and not sting you in return for shelter (carefully constructed backpack-hive?) and offerings of sugar water. It would probably work even better on bees. A lot of this isn't explicitly statted out, but 5e is supposed to offer a degree of flexibility in some things, and "I want to catch 10 centipedes and keep them in a box for a few days" doesn't require an enormous amount of flexibility on the part of the DM.


I would say yes ...

... and here's why.

It doesn't matter to the game, and it is cleverer and more rewarding to be resourceful.

It would be sad to let this be another sticking point for no-fun DM's to call foul from left field: "Oh, but did you collect all the specific insectoid spell components each day as well as your essential oils for the herbalism kit?" Nobody wants to play that kind of game for long, do they?

It's very easy to say "DM, I carry a pouch of various insects I've collected and I feed them and make sure they are well." But it's not necessary.

Lastly, the spell's wording doesn't say that the cloud of insects is vaporous, spiritual, illusory, or of only one kind of useless insect. It could quite possibly have 5 wasps in it and maybe even centipedes and spiders and one scorpion. Maybe that was someone's intent.

In most situations that fun should rule over debbie downer; this is an easy call.
Of course is should be allowed.

The RAW do not imply that it is not possible. A player should be rewarded for this clever association between the two staff uses, as well as freeing up a spell caster from being encumbered by unnecessary spell parts, for say, if recovering from being prisoner and losing all their gear and finding only this staff.

It's also an easy leap to say: "Look, the cloud of insects is harmless, and when you giant a couple of them they respond to the spell that cast it. This is at least 4th level magic happening here."

When I read the RAW of it I don't see any contradiction. It's completely dependent on wanting creative solutions in the game or not.

("a wasp isn't harmless but a use of Speak with Animals will surely circumvent having to use the staff to get a wasp....", I truly cannot abide by these other answers and believe i was -1'd by a fellow poster. I have reviewed the rules as written and my answer is infallible. thankyou very much. I can't believe some one would ask a player to bend backwards for a (expletive) hand full of natural insects. This is truly armegeddon then. And a wasp is harmless in real life, especially if it doesn't have 100 friends, or have you been stung for 25 percent of your health before. I haven't. My D&D character is not allergic. Should D&D characters have allergies and vulnerabilities to things like peanuts, bees, and perfume? I didn't think so. Is this a game for several people to cooperate or your next big chance to disapoint a small crowd of enthusiasts?! I thought so, burst that balloon for the sake of erring on the side of caution. Don't wanna let that cloud of insects take over the world after this 8th level encounter. Whoa BOY! There's 4 people waiting on the DM to allow one of their players to do something intelligent and creative, a review by all review shows it is possible, 10 minutes later the answer is no, and you think you've done a good job and not being stared down by 50 wasted minutes of existence (5x10) ??!! I think not. It is good that some one thought of this trick and should be allowed at every table. Honestly how could a DM ask their "friend" to come back when they have the money, i.e. 4 wasps, 3 spiders, 10 centipedes... only 9 centipedes? Come back when you have 10 centipeded, sucker. That's what you get for playing the game. Absolutely ridiculous, and people will take offense to a DM being unreasonable. And i take offense to this entire page of answers. They are all completely wrong and they think they nailed it, reading over the same text i did and interpreting it as the instructions for leaping over a giant chasm. Sigh. Super super sad for D&D. D&D is dead now. It's been murdered by this post and rules lawyers answering to the lobbyists of the big no fun police corporations that make laws to gain more no fun policies to waste player's time. That's where the money is for DM's i guess. Let me ask you this. When you go to a party do you supply your own booze? Is it a very rare, magical occurrance when you do so? Give the guy some insects, you no fun, rules stamping, that's all you can do to have a good time is ruin other people's ideas, terrible DM. under my breathe "tight wad".) humor

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