Much like how the three starting Pokémon’s evolutionary lines are all meant to parallel each other, Weedle and Caterpie serve the exact same role, so naturally we see a lot of similarity in their designs. Weedle has lots of rounded elements to it, from the segmentation up to its feet, nose, and beady eyes, with a little spikes on its head and tail. As a cute grub, it honestly looks simultaneously cuter and more dangerous than Caterpie, which makes a bit of sense since he has an additional Poison flavor.
Kakuna is a cocoon, and… that’s it. It’s got more angles and ridges than Metapod, which contributes to this whole evolutionary line having a more boyish, “hardcore” look to it than its sibling line. It even looks a bit like it has a collar and a necktie going on under its head. Kakuna is a very serious bug Pokémon ready to go off and do a business.
Bee! Drill! It’s a bee! With drills! He’s actually a bit more wasp-like or even hornet-like than bee-like, but whatever. Pretty straightforward as far as designs go, but he looks nice and sharp and dangerous, which is totally apt for what he is. He’s even got a sharp nose and pointier feet than Butterfree. A bit odd that, while his hand-stingers and Weedle’s barbs are all a different color than the body, the stinger in the anatomically correct place for a bee is the same color as his abdomen, which implies that he mostly uses his limbs to attack. That makes more imaginative sense than him charging at the opponent butt-first, at least.
Unfortunately, Beedrill doesn’t have a lot going for it gameplay-wise, aside from its early evolution and poison-inducing moves filling the same niche as Butterfree. Problem is, Butterfree isn’t as dependent on attack, which means Beedrill does a worse job at fitting the niche, since he’ll teach players how to poison things and… that’s it. He doesn’t have the same weakness to the early Rock gym where players will most likely be using him, but he’s kind of one-note overall and has pretty poor stats, so his usefulness drops of right quick.
Nintendo themselves aren’t doing much to counter-act this budding inferiority complex, either. He’s generally treated like a pest when he shows up in the show, and he’s barely used in advertisements at all, because Butterfree is apparently just a much more photogenic representative of bugs. He’s not totally swept under the rug, and he’s still fairly well-known since he’s an early-game monster in the original 151, but he’s still kind of treated like a second-stringer for what he is. Poor guy.
We know a few things about these guys from the Pokédex – that Beedrill does, in fact, use his tail-stinger in conjunction with his limbs, that he’s more of a hit-and-run Pokémon (doesn’t say great things about his durability), and that Weedle has a great sense of smell. Funny that, since by the time he’s Beedrill he has no real nose to speak of. He’s lost one of his better features!
It’s nice that Kakuna actually has some form of defense, though, with it being declared to have a venomous barb on its body. Much more sensible and useful than Metapod, who I suppose can only really tackle things from an offensive standpoint.
Like Bulbasaur, Weedle is also the namesake of a real-life wasp, which also has a spike protruding from its head. This little guy is out there, being an influence on the real world!
French naming corner! Beedrill is named Dardargnan, which is clearly for D’Artagnan of The Three Musketeers, with the word for “sting” (dard) mixed in there. At least the French have some respect for Beedrill!
Larva-Pupa-Adult is a formula that we’ll see a lot more (particularly in bug Pokémon), and poisonous bugs won’t be anything new, either. We’ll even eventually get to what are probably more interesting Pokémon interpretations of bees down the line, which doesn’t bode great for Beedrill’s uniqueness within the games.
It’s hard to be harsh on any of the original 151 monsters, especially since they get so much preferential treatment throughout the series, but as time goes on Beedrill is more and more a Pokémon that’s just kinda hanging around because he’s always been there. He’s probably somewhere between Reserve status and something that the designers could Retire, saved only by getting grandfathered in with the rest of the Kanto crew if at all.
Any and all appreciation for Weedle, Kakuna, and Beedrill is welcome in the comments!