Moths in Myth and Symbolism: Cultural Significance Across History

 Moths in Myth and Symbolism: Cultural Significance Across History

When we hear about moths, we automatically think about butterflies. However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that moths have been embedded in symbolism and culture for a very long time. That’s why it’s extremely important to not only learn what moths symbolize but also understand how those myths and symbols have modified humanity’s perception when it comes to them.

Things we should know about moths

Butterflies all have a single ancestor, but unlike them, moths are a lot more genetically diverse. In fact, many of them have ended up diverging from one another. Some of the earliest moths in human history can be pinpointed to around 300 million years ago. However, those earlier versions have evolved along with the early flowers into the modern versions that we can find today. In the 21st century, we now have over 160000 species of butterflies and moths all over the world. More of them are getting discovered all the time.

A symbol of transformation and change

For a very long time, one of the major meanings when you see moths is that you will go through transformation and change. That was what people thought about moths, the fact that encountering them will signify a huge change in your life. Either you will find a new partner, a new job, or you will end up transforming into a better version of yourself.

That belief is not lost, a lot of people worldwide still believe this when it comes to moths. Others think of more obscure and negative meanings, too. For example, some see moths as a mystery of the night, as something that can bring change, unique things, but also challenges.

And in some cases, moths can also have a more somber meaning. Some people see moths as a symbol of death and endings. Of course, that can be the end of something bad and the beginning of something good. Yet some communities think someone will die whenever they see a moth. All of these beliefs have changed over the years, and they continue to stand out. Yet it’s common to see people think this way about moths, showing how significant their presence is and how it can affect what people think about them!

Fragility and vulnerability

Moths themselves are known for not being very powerful. In fact, they are fragile, and that’s why, over the years, they have retained the symbol of weakness and fragility. When a moth appears, you might think that a period arrives when you feel weak and with a lack of energy. However, for other people, seeing a moth is what determines them to focus on exercising, improving their health, and surpassing any sign of fragility. So yes, it can help you become a more determined and focused person, which means it can go both ways, depending on the situation.

The precursors of rain

Over multiple centuries, people have always identified moths as the bringer of rain. And it’s easy to see why, because they are rooted in reality and rain tends to come by after some people see them. Whether that is a coincidence or not, it’s very hard to say. But the thing we do know is that moths will sometimes appear randomly, so it’s not a given you will encounter rain. It does make sense to at least prepare for rainfall, just in case it might happen.

Adapting to new things

When people encountered moths over the years, one of the things they immediately started realizing is that they go through different stages of life. Then, eventually, a butterfly emerges, and that’s a very important part of their lives. What you need to keep in mind here is that just like our lives, a moth’s life is constantly evolving and there’s always something new that happens. 

So when you see a month, that might show you new times are coming. It shows that you need to adapt, narrow down new things that you can do, and expand as a person. Once you do that, results can be a whole lot better. 

Myths regarding moths: what is true and what is fiction?

Moths fly only during the night

Some of them only fly during the night, that’s true. However, there are some, like the Scarlet Tiger or the Cinnabar that fly during the day. The Red Admiral is known to fly during the night as well.

Moths don’t have any clubbed antennae

There are moths with clubbed antennae just like butterflies, like the day flying burnets. Some moths don’t have such an antennae style, but you can still find some that do. 

All moths are eating clothes

It’s important to understand that not all moths eat clothes. In fact, only a few species are known to eat clothes. And even if some eat clothes, those only eat fabrics that are derived from animal sources. Those include compounds they can digest. Synthetics and cotton are not going to be targeted by cloth-eating moths. Wool and other animal-originated fabrics are those targeted by these moths. Also, remember that these moths prefer dirty clothes, those left in the dark and which are not disturbed at all. 

Only moths are furry; butterflies are not

There are plenty of butterflies with a very furry body. Of course, this is not the norm, there are plenty of moth species that also have tons of hair on them. And then you can also find moths that barely have any hair. You will find some differences, like the fact that most moths have a very small structure similar to a hook that joins the forewing and hind wing. 

Moths only eat clothes

It’s a myth that a lot of people believe, but that’s not true at all. Moths actually eat nectar from flowers, plant sap, rotting fruits and many others. As we said earlier, there are a few species that will eat only animal-originated fiber, but there are only a few of them. So you shouldn’t dismiss moths and think all of them are the same. Because most of them have a very different diet as opposed to what you might think. Some moths will eat cereals and grains, but not all of them do that.

Herbs kill moths

That’s not the case. Moths will not get killed by various herb smells, which a lot of people think can be a great anti-moth solution. But the thing to note is that smell will mask the smell of wool, which deters moths from accessing those clothes. That’s only valid in the case of cloth-eating moths.


As you can see, there are many things that people misunderstand when it comes to moths. We hope this article will give you a fresh, great perspective when it comes to moths, how they are and also what misconceptions are out there. A lot of people misunderstand moths, and they automatically think their clothes are in danger. 

However, moths are much more than clothing-eaters, they are extremely important for the environment. Without them, we wouldn’t have the beautiful butterflies that are constantly flying around our homes. Also, they are great pollinators, not to mention a part of the food chain. Moths also are some of the first species that will indicate problems with the environment, so we absolutely need them!


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