Insect Symbology – What’s the Meaning of That Bug?
Have you ever wondered about insects and their symbolic meanings? You may be familiar with ladybugs and perhaps know that spotting one is associated with good luck or fortune. But what about all those other little creatures you see in your home or outside in the backyard? Do they have any symbolic meaning?
Insect symbology is a fascinating subject. From beautiful butterflies to the hundred-legged centipede, bugs not only play an essential role in the ecology of our world but have, since ancient times, been attached to significant symbolic meaning. Let’s explore insect symbolism and discover what lessons they can teach us by understanding their deeper meanings.
Learning Through the Natural World
In times gone by, most societies recognized the profound role the natural world played in their lives. This included understanding the vital role of — and assigning symbology to — animals, plants, birds, and insects.
For example, birds are often symbolic of the soul, while insect symbology is often associated with change and transformation.
Native American mythology sees swarms of insects as a sign of bad luck, but smaller individual insects symbolize meekness and humility — highly revered traits. Spiders also have a deeper spiritual meaning for many Native American tribes.
The San tribe, a group of Southern African hunter-gatherers, have great respect for the praying mantis, an agile and prehistoric-looking insect they believe holds many mystical qualities.
The scarab beetle was worshipped as a sacred symbol by ancient Egyptians, sometimes placed in burial sites for protection.
Shamans, priests, and other healers use insect symbolism as a way of helping their communities heal and find meaning in their own lives. These symbolic messages can be interpreted through dreams of insects, seeing an unusual insect in real life, or the recurring appearance of the same insect.
The tiny ant holds great symbolism for many cultures. In the Philippines, ants seen in the home signal wealth and prosperity. In China, they symbolize patriotism, loyalty, and duty. Islamic followers see the ant as a symbol of great wisdom, while the Bible associates it with humanity learning to work together.
Ant symbology can be generally described as focused on order, discipline, and industriousness. If you keep seeing ants, maybe ask yourself if you’re working hard enough (with the right team!) to achieve your goals…
The busy little bee is often symbolic of fertility and fecundity, while for Egyptians it symbolizes royalty. The Celts associated it with wisdom. Most cultures agree that the bee represents productivity and community work. In modern times, the bee has been adopted as a symbol of feminism, given the importance of the Queen Bee.
Who doesn’t love butterflies? These enchanting creatures can be seen fluttering from one flower to another as they sip on the sweet nectar and gather pollen. For many cultures, the butterfly is symbolic of transformation and in some cases, the afterlife. Thanks to their appearance, butterflies are also often associated with joy, color, and elegance, especially in Chinese and Native American cultures.
The next time you see a butterfly, ponder which stage of the transformation process you may be in. Is it time for a change?
Revered for their lightness and association with joy, the dragonfly is the national emblem of Japan. In Japanese culture, the dragonfly symbolizes not only light and joy, but also serves as the protector of children and samurais.
Dragonflies are often used in Japanese artwork, and because they were frequently seen flying around rice paddies, they became known as the “rice spirit.” For Native Americans, the dragonfly symbolized the souls of the dead. Some cultures believe the dragonfly was once a dragon — a mythical creature indeed!
Grasshoppers may be considered a pest for farmers and gardeners alike, but the grasshopper has several symbolic meanings for many cultures. For the ancient Greeks, it symbolized royalty and nobility. In China, both the grasshopper and cricket symbolize good fortune, abundance, and cheerfulness.
This leaper and hopper is most often associated with courage and having an open mindset (or forward-thinking attitude since they leap forward). The next time a grasshopper crosses your path, consider it a sign to take those steps — moving forward with no fear.
(Gardeners…I know. Being familiar with the various appetites of these creatures, you might disagree with us on that one. I get it!)
The Praying Mantis
What do you notice about the praying mantis when you see one in your garden? Mostly, it’s the ability to remain absolutely still. For this reason, the praying mantis symbolizes the power of stillness, patience, and mindfulness. If you’re wondering if you should start meditating and happen to see this insect, there’s your answer!
Chinese culture suggests that seeing a praying mantis means that one must not make a move until they’re absolutely sure it’s the right one. Early Christianity associated the praying mantis with the power of divination.
One creature consistently depicted in many myths and legends is the spider. The most common symbolism for spiders is the creator of life and the weaver of fate. In both African mythology and Native American cultures, the spider is associated with the trickster or person with cunning skills.
In China, spotting a spider is considered to bring good luck and happiness. Ancient Egyptians associated the spider with their goddess Neith, noted as the “weaver of destiny.”
By understanding and appreciating the symbolism of insects, you can tap into the many lessons the natural world has to teach you. Insect symbology, along with other symbology attached to flora and fauna, is one more tool in interpreting the language of nature and maybe even your own existence. Have fun and discover the meaning of that bug the next time it comes to visit. It may be just the message you need to hear!
Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.
Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest Control