Moth Tattoo Meaning

Earth has a plethora of insects to choose from that could inspire your next tattoo design. Most of which have a great deal of symbolism.

With that said, not many insects are as cool (aesthetically and symbolically) as the moth. In fact, moths are one of the most popular choices for tattoo designs in the world.

Moth Tattoo Meaning
Moth with skull. Monochrome butterfly with death symbol.

In this article, we’re going to discuss moth tattoo meaning and symbolism and help you discover why these peculiar, yet majestic insects are such a staple in the world of traditional tattooing.

Why is The Moth Tattoo So Popular in Traditional Tattooing?

Moth tattoos are very popular and look great in American traditional tattoo style. What does a traditional moth tattoo mean? What is the history behind moth tattoos?

Read on to learn the answers to these questions, as well as the history of moths, and the symbolism and variation of moth tattoos.. 

Moth Tattoo Meaning

Moths are the butterflies of the night.  Their lives progress from caterpillar to cocoon to winged insect, just as butterflies do.

There are hundreds of thousands of species of moth from around the globe. 

Moths have been around since prehistoric times, and this ancient insect is known for its attunement to the cycles of the earth and moon.

1. Symbolising Nature & Rhythm of The Universe

Moths navigate by using the light of the moon to guide them in their flight patterns. 

Their affinity to the moon means that they represent an affinity to nature and natural rhythms. 

Because they fly in straight paths towards their goals, moths can also symbolize determination to stay the course.

2. Symbolising Resilience & Survival

A tattoo of a moth might also represent resilience and survival to the owner. 

Moths have survived several extinctions. They evolved to their current form around the time of the Jurassic era. Moths have endured as a species when many others, including the dinosaurs, died out.

Some also believe the moth to be a spiritual symbol of premonition because of its ancient origins.

3. Symbolising a Love For The Night

Moth tattoos are a favorite of night owls due to their nocturnal nature. 

Moths also have a  tendency to seemingly appear from out of nowhere, flying out of the darkness into our field of vision. This aspect of the moth gives them an ominous quality, which some people might prize in a tattoo.

4. Symbolising Opportunity or Warning of What’s to Come

Moths live short lives, and some people view the moth as an omen.

For those who see the moth as a good omen, they might get a moth tattoo to symbolize that opportunities will present themselves in the future.

For those who see the moth as a bad omen, they might get a moth tattoo to remind them of their own mortality, or how life is precious and not to be taken for granted.

5. Symbolising Transformation

Moths are a perfect symbol of transformation because they begin their lives as larvae, then change into beautiful flying insects.

Metamorphosis is one of the most popular meanings behind moth tattoos. Some people use them to remind themselves that they can always change when life seems stale and needs to shift.

6. Symbolising Rebirth Through Death

The cocoons of moths and butterflies mean these insects represent change and resilience in the face of hardship. 

While the butterfly symbolizes rebirth, the moth takes on a different meaning. As night represents death, the nocturnal moth represents rebirth through death.

Moth tattoos may symbolize the continuation of a family line after death, or in memory of a dead loved one. Moth tattoos with this meaning often include the name of the beloved deceased.

7. Symbolising Protection

The cocoon isn’t the only reason a moth tattoo can signify protection.There are thousands of different moth camouflage patterns, specially suited to the environments they evolved in. 

A moth’s color pattern keeps them safe from predators by making them invisible, blending into their surroundings.

A moth tattoo could mean that the person feels protected, or wants to feel protected, so that they can achieve their goals without fear.

8. Symbolising Adaptability 

Many species of moth can be found in a wide variety of environments. In this way, the moth is an excellent symbol of adaptability to whatever climate they find themselves in.

Someone with a moth tattoo might be representing their willingness to adapt to adversity. A moth tattoo might also symbolize an adventurous spirit.

9. Symbolising an Ability to Push Through Tough Times

Resilience is another aspect to the moth represented in tattoos. Because the moth changes itself completely within the cocoon, it signifies regeneration and change.

A person starting over in life after hard times might get a moth tattoo to remind themselves of their ability to endure and adapt.

Moth Tattoo Colors

The colors of moth tattoos don’t have any specific meanings, although the owner may attribute the color to something personal to them.

Most moth tattoos are black or black and grey. With thousands of moth species to choose from, there are lots of possible colors and patterns. 

Many people select their favorite one, or the one they find most attractive, for their tattoo.

Fun Facts About Moths

Over 11,000 Moth Species in The US

The adaptability of moths has made them a widespread and plentiful insect. In the United States alone there are 11,000 different types of moth. 

That means that there are more different types of moth in just the US than there are mammal and bird species combined in the entire North American continent.

There are also 10 times more moths in the world than butterflies. This might explain why moths are such a popular symbol worldwide.

Moths Are Extremely Diverse

The largest moth, the Atlas Moth of Southeast Asia, can grow to the size of a bird. It has a 12 inch wingspan, making it larger than a Baltimore Oriole. 

In North America, the largest moth species is the Royal Walnut Moth, with a 4.5 inch wingspan.

By contrast, the smallest moths are as tiny as the tip of a pencil. 

Moths Can Impersonate Other Animals

Moths use their appearance to deter predators from eating them. Most people are familiar with their ability to camouflage, but a few can impersonate other animals instead.

Moth species resembling tarantulas, wasps, praying mantises, or even bird waste, have been documented and studied.

FAQs About Moths

Do Moths Have a Purpose?

While some moths, like the corn earworm, are considered pests, many species of moth are valuable pollinators.

Moths are attracted to strong fragrances produced by flowers at night, such as the flower of the yucca plant. Pollen sticks to their hairy bodies as they travel from flower to flower.

The Hummingbird moth, named for its ability to hover over flowers while eating, pollinates during the daytime. It has a long tongue that it uncurls to sip nectar from flowers.

Some of the most common plants the Hummingbird moth pollinates include the:

  • Verbena
  • Honeysuckle
  • And bee balm

What is The Lifespan of a Moth?

Some moth species lose their ability to eat once they emerge from their cocoons. Their adult form doesn’t have a mouth, so their sole purpose is to breed.

The Luna moth lives only a week after metamorphosis. They have just enough time to mate and lay eggs before they die.


As you can see, moth tattoos can symbolize a wide variety of different emotions, traits, and triumphs in a person’s life. 

This is why moth-related tattoos are some of the most popular designs today. If any of the symbols in this article resonated with you, then a moth tattoo might be the right choice.

To learn about other tattoo meanings, click here for articles in our Tattoo Meanings series.

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