What Do Bed Bugs Symbolize? Discover the Meaning Behind These Pesky Insects

Bed bugs are the ultimate pests of a healthy home. Nobody wants these annoying creatures crawling in their sheets, ruining their sleeping experience, and leaving them with itchy bites. But, did you know that bed bugs symbolize much more than just a household nuisance? In fact, these little critters have long been holding a special place in folklore, mythology, and even history.

Across various cultures, bed bugs have been associated with different meanings. For instance, in French, bed bugs are called punaises de lit, which translates to “bed bugs of misery.” It’s believed to reflect the role that these insects played during World War II, where they were notorious for infesting barracks and soldiers’ lodgings. In Eastern Europe, bed bugs are regarded as symbols of poverty and bad luck, while some tribes in Africa see bed bugs as embodiments of evil spirits.

Despite having no direct material impact on human life, bed bugs have had an intriguing association with human culture for centuries. From the ancient Greeks to modern-day America, there’s no denying the fascinating symbolism attached to these tiny, pesky insects. In this article, I’ll delve deeper into what bed bugs represent and the broader cultural significance surrounding them. Join me on this journey of discovering the strange and mysterious symbolism of these pesky insects.

History of Bed Bugs as Symbolism

Bed bugs have been a part of human history for as long as we can remember. These blood-sucking parasites were once a common sight in many households, causing havoc and spreading disease. From a symbolic standpoint, bed bugs are often associated with negative qualities and are used to represent a range of ideas and concepts.

The use of bed bugs as a symbol dates back thousands of years. In ancient Egypt, bed bugs were often associated with evil spirits and were used in rituals to protect against them. The Greeks also had their own interpretation of bed bugs; they believed that these bugs represented a lack of cleanliness and indicated poor living conditions.

Throughout history, bed bugs have been associated with poverty, pain, and shame. They were often seen as a sign that a family was struggling financially, as bed bugs thrived in unsanitary and overcrowded living conditions. As a result, bed bugs were often used as a symbol of social degradation and were associated with the lower classes.

  • In literature, bed bugs have often been used as a metaphor for human suffering and societal decay. The works of Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare are replete with references to these parasites and their symbolic significance.
  • In popular culture, bed bugs have become synonymous with fear, disgust, and physical discomfort. Films such as “Creepy Crawlers” and “Bed Bug City” have capitalized on the public’s aversion to these pests.
  • In the field of psychology, bed bugs have been used as a tool for exploring the human mind. Dreams about bed bugs have been analyzed as a reflection of the dreamer’s anxieties and fears.

In recent years, bed bugs have experienced a resurgence, with some experts labeling them as a “public health crisis.” The increase in bed bug infestations has led to a renewed interest in the symbolism of these pests, with some seeing their return as a warning against complacency and the dangers of neglecting basic hygiene and cleanliness.

Time PeriodBed Bug Symbolism
Ancient EgyptEvil spirits
Classical GreecePoor living conditions
Victorian EnglandSocial degradation
21st CenturyPublic health crisis

Despite the negative connotations associated with bed bugs, some cultures have seen these parasites as a source of luck and prosperity. In Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Greece, bed bugs are viewed as a sign of good luck and are often associated with financial windfalls. Similarly, in some Asian cultures, bed bugs are believed to have medicinal properties and are used in traditional remedies.

Cultural Beliefs Surrounding Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are not just a nuisance but also have significant symbolism in different cultures around the world. Here are some interesting beliefs about bed bugs in different societies.

  • American Culture: In American culture, bed bugs have been associated with poverty and squalor. Due to their ability to infest even the cleanest of homes, bed bugs are often a source of shame and embarrassment for their victims. People are ashamed to admit they have bed bugs because of the stigma around poverty.
  • European Culture: In European culture, bed bugs were considered an omen of death in the olden days. People believed that if bed bugs bit a sick person, they would die soon after. Even today, some people in Europe consider bed bugs as a sign of impending doom and fear them.
  • Chinese Culture: In Chinese culture, bed bugs are believed to bring good luck and fortune. Chinese people have a saying, “If you have bed bugs in your house, it means you are going to get rich.” Some people even keep bed bugs in a jar and feed them sugar just to attract good luck and wealth.

These cultural beliefs show how bed bugs can evoke different emotions and meanings in different societies. While they are a source of disgust and embarrassment in some cultures, they are a symbol of prosperity and good fortune in others.

Bed bugs have also played a role in superstitions and folklore throughout history. For example, in some cultures, putting a penny on your bed when you sleep can protect you from bed bug bites. In others, burning bed bugs can bring good luck and fortune.

IndiaBed bugs were believed to be a form of the goddess Kali.
NigeriaPeople believed that bed bugs were the reincarnated spirits of their ancestors.
MexicoBed bugs were believed to be carriers of disease and were used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments.

It is fascinating to see how bed bugs have been woven into various folklores and cultural beliefs. While they may be a nuisance for many of us, they have played a significant role in shaping our understanding of the world around us.

Bed Bugs in Literature and Folklore

Bed bugs have been mentioned in several literary works as well as folktales for centuries. They are known to represent different symbols and beliefs in different cultures. Here we will discuss the significance of bed bugs in literature and folklore.

  • Bed Bugs in Shakespeare’s plays: Shakespeare mentioned bed bugs in his plays “King Henry IV” and “Othello.” In King Henry IV, a character says, “A good wit will make use of anything; I will turn diseases to commodity,” suggesting that even bed bugs can be used to mock one’s enemies. In Othello, Iago says, “Your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs” while referring to Othello and Desdemona. Some scholars suggest that the term “beast with two backs” might be an allusion to bed bugs crawling around while two people are in bed.
  • Bed Bugs in the Bible: Bed bugs were mentioned in the Bible’s Old Testament as one of the ten plagues that God sent to the Egyptians in the story of the Exodus.
  • Bed Bugs in Folklore: Bed bugs are known in different cultures as symbols of different things. In Germany, it was believed that if bed bugs were found in a house, the person who slept in the bed would marry soon. In some parts of Africa, bed bugs were believed to be witches in disguise.

Overall, bed bugs have been mentioned in literature and folklore for centuries, representing different symbols and beliefs in different cultures.

Meaning of Bed Bugs in Dreams

Bed bugs are an unpleasant and unwanted pest that can infest our living spaces and cause annoyance and discomfort. However, in the realm of dreams, bed bugs can take on a different meaning and represent various symbols and emotions. In this article, we will explore the various interpretations and meanings of bed bugs in dreams.

The Number 4: The Number of Stability and Foundation

  • The number 4 is associated with stability, order, and structure in numerology.
  • When bed bugs appear in a dream in groups of four, it may symbolize a foundation that is being threatened or a sense of stability that is being compromised.
  • Alternatively, seeing four bed bugs could represent a sense of structure and organization in your life, or a need for more stable foundations in your relationships.

Physical Manifestations of Stress

One of the most common interpretations of bed bugs in dreams is that they represent stress or anxiety. When we are stressed, our body can respond in various physical ways, such as headaches, stomachaches, or muscle tension. Bed bugs can symbolize these physical manifestations of stress in our dreams.

If you are experiencing stress or anxiety in your waking life, seeing bed bugs in your dreams may indicate that your body is trying to tell you to take care of your mental health and find ways to alleviate your stress.

Feelings of Shame and Embarrassment

Bed bugs are often associated with uncleanliness and poor hygiene, which can lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment. If you see bed bugs in your dream, it may suggest that you are feeling ashamed or embarrassed about something in your waking life.

Alternatively, if you dream that you have bed bugs in your home, it may indicate that you are feeling a sense of embarrassment about your living situation or the state of your home. This could be a signal to work on improving your living environment and taking pride in your surroundings.

Summary Table: Possible Meanings of Bed Bugs in Dreams

StabilityGroup of four bed bugs represent stability or foundation in your life.
Physical Manifestations of StressBed bugs symbolize stress or anxiety that your body is trying to express in a physical way.
Shame and embarrassmentBed bugs represent a feeling of shame or embarrassment about something in your life.

Overall, the presence of bed bugs in dreams can be a sign of a wide range of emotions and experiences. By examining the specific context and details of your dream, you can gain a deeper understanding of what bed bugs may represent for you and use this information to help navigate your waking life.

Bed Bugs in Art and Film

Bed bugs have been portrayed in various forms of art and media, from paintings to movies. Here are some examples of how bed bugs have been depicted:

  • Paintings: Dutch painter, Jan Steen, captured the reality of bed bugs in his painting “The Sleeping Sportsman.” The painting portrays a man sleeping with bed bugs crawling on him, highlighting the discomfort caused by these pests.
  • Films: Bed bugs have been featured in horror movies such as “The Nest” in 1988 and “Bed Bugs” in 2011. These movies portray the terror of bed bugs infesting homes and attacking unsuspecting individuals.
  • Literature: The novel “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka features a man who wakes up one day to find that he has turned into a giant insect, which some literary experts interpret as a representation of bed bugs.

Bed bugs have also been used symbolically in art and media:

In the movie “The Big Lebowski,” the protagonist, Jeffrey Lebowski, refers to bed bugs as a symbol of poverty. This association is likely due to the fact that bed bugs are commonly associated with unsanitary living conditions.

Similarly, in the book “Junky” by William S. Burroughs, the narrator describes staying in a hotel that is so infested with bed bugs that it is nicknamed “The Bughouse.” This use of bed bugs as a symbol of a seedy and squalid environment highlights the negative connotations associated with these pests.

Art/FilmDepiction of Bed Bugs
“The Sleeping Sportsman” by Jan SteenRealistic portrayal of bed bugs crawling on a sleeping man
“The Nest” (1988) and “Bed Bugs” (2011)Portrayal of bed bugs as terrifying pests
“The Metamorphosis” by Franz KafkaSymbolic representation of bed bugs

Overall, bed bugs have been featured in various forms of art and media as both a realistic and symbolic representation of the discomfort and negative connotations associated with them.

Superstitions Related to Bed Bugs

Bed bugs have been a part of human existence for thousands of years, and their presence has led to various superstitions and beliefs about them. In this article, we will explore some of the most common superstitions related to bed bugs and what they symbolize.

The Number 6

The number 6 is believed to be associated with bed bugs for various reasons. One of the reasons is that bed bugs usually feed on their host’s blood during the sixth hour of the night. In some cultures, the number 6 is considered unlucky and associated with negativity. It is also believed that if you see six bed bugs in one place, it is a sign of bad luck and that you should be cautious.

Here are some other beliefs related to the number 6 and bed bugs:

  • Seeing six bed bugs crawling on your bed is a sign that someone close to you is sick.
  • If you dream about seeing six bed bugs, it means that you will encounter trouble in your life.
  • Six bed bugs seen in a dream can also mean that you will receive an unexpected visitor within six days.

These beliefs may seem far-fetched, but they have been passed down for generations, and some people still believe in them today.

To further understand the symbolism and superstitions surrounding bed bugs, let’s take a look at some other popular beliefs:

Other Bed Bug Superstitions

In some cultures, bed bugs are believed to symbolize financial success, while in others, they are associated with dirtiness and bad hygiene. Here are some other beliefs:

  • It is believed that if a bed bug crawls on your hand, you will come into money soon.
  • If you kill a bed bug and smear its blood on your skin, it is believed that you will be protected from evil spirits.
  • In some cultures, bed bugs are believed to be a sign of bad energy or a curse placed on someone.

These superstitions may seem irrational to some, but they hold significant cultural value and are a part of many people’s belief systems.


Bed bugs have been a subject of superstition for centuries, and their symbolism and interpretation vary widely between cultures and beliefs. While some people may see them as a sign of bad luck or a curse, others may view them as a symbol of financial prosperity. Whatever your belief may be, it is essential to remember that bed bugs are merely insects that are not under our control, and we should take the necessary precautions to avoid them.

The number 6Unlucky, sign of negativity
Bed bugs crawling on your handSymbol of financial success
Killing a bed bug and smearing its blood on your skinProtection from evil spirits

Overall, superstitious beliefs related to bed bugs are rooted in cultural and historical significance, and it is up to us to decide how much weight we give to them.

Religious Interpretations of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs have been known to exist for thousands of years, and throughout different cultures and religions, they have been given special significance. In some cases, bed bugs have been seen as symbols of fortune, while in other cases, they have been seen as denoting misfortune. In this article, we will discuss the religious interpretations of bed bugs, including their significance in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, with a specific focus on the number “7.”

It is worth noting that many of the religious beliefs surrounding bed bugs are tied to their association with blood, as bed bugs feed exclusively on the blood of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Additionally, bed bugs are often associated with uncleanliness, as they are often found in dirty or cluttered spaces.

The Significance of “7” in Christianity

In Christianity, there are many references to the number “7,” which is often associated with completeness and perfection. For example, the book of Genesis states that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, making the seventh day holy and complete. In this context, the presence of bed bugs in a house may be seen as an intrusion of uncleanliness and imperfection on what should be a peaceful and complete home environment.

The Significance of “7” in Judaism

Similarly, in Judaism, the number “7” is seen as significant and symbolic. For instance, the seven days of the week are tied to the seven days of creation, which culminate in God resting on the seventh day. In the Torah, there are also many references to the “seven-fold spirit,” which represents the completeness and perfection of God’s spirit. Bed bugs, therefore, can be seen as a physical manifestation of uncleanliness and imperfection, particularly if they are found in spaces that are meant to be pure and clean, such as in a home or in a synagogue.

The Significance of “7” in Islam

Islam also has a strong tradition of numerology, with the number “7” holding particular significance. In the Quran, there are references to the “seven heavens,” which represent different levels of spiritual attainment, as well as the “seven earths,” which are thought to correspond to different stages of physical creation. In this context, the appearance of bed bugs in a home may be seen as a sign of imbalance in the physical or spiritual realm.

The Number “7” and Bed Bugs

ReligionSignificance of “7” in ReligionThe Significance of Bed Bugs in Religion
ChristianityCompleteness, PerfectionIntrusion of Uncleanliness and Imperfection
JudaismCompleteness, PerfectionManifestation of Uncleanliness and Imperfection
IslamSpiritual Attainment, Physical CreationSign of Imbalance

While the significance of bed bugs may vary across different religions and cultures, one thing is clear: bed bugs are often seen as a symbol of uncleanliness and imbalance. The association of bed bugs with blood also adds an extra layer of significance, as blood is often symbolic of life and vitality. Regardless of the specific religious beliefs surrounding bed bugs, however, it is clear that these insects can be a major source of stress and worry for those dealing with infestations.

Psychological Interpretations of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are more than just a nuisance – they can also symbolize a variety of subconscious psychological meanings. Here is a closer look at some of the ways in which bed bugs can be interpreted through a psychological lens:

  • Fear: Fear is one of the most common psychological interpretations of bed bugs. This may be because the presence of bed bugs can be associated with uncleanliness or filth, leading to a fear of germs or disease. Additionally, the thought of being bitten by bugs while sleeping can be a particularly frightening concept.
  • Guilt: Guilt is another psychological interpretation of bed bugs, particularly for individuals who have unknowingly brought bed bugs into their home from a trip or by purchasing used furniture. This can bring feelings of shame or self-blame for the consequences that follow.
  • Paranoia: Bed bugs can also fuel paranoia, as individuals may become hyper-vigilant about checking their surroundings and become anxious about the possibility of an infestation.

Table 1: Psychological Interpretations of Bed Bugs

FearAssociated with uncleanliness or filth, leading to fear of germs or disease.
GuiltFeelings of shame or self-blame for the consequences of bringing bed bugs into the home.
ParanoiaHyper-vigilance and anxiety about the possibility of an infestation.

Ultimately, the psychological interpretation of bed bugs is highly individualized and can vary depending on a variety of factors including past experiences, cultural beliefs, and personal insecurities. However, by understanding some of the common subconscious meanings associated with bed bugs, individuals may be able to gain a deeper understanding of their own reactions and attitudes towards these pests.

Bed Bugs as a Reflection of Social Issues

Bed bugs are not just insects that suck human blood, they symbolize a lot of negative things about our society. In this article, we will explore the social issues that bed bugs represent.

Number 9: The Crisis of Homelessness

Homelessness is a major social issue in many countries. People who are homeless often lack basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter, which makes them vulnerable to bed bug infestations. Homeless shelters and low-income housing are often breeding grounds for bed bugs. According to a report from the National Pest Management Association, 97% of pest control professionals have treated bed bugs in multifamily buildings, and 33% have treated them in homeless shelters.

  • Homeless shelters and low-income housing are breeding grounds for bed bugs.
  • Bed bugs can make life even more difficult for people who are already struggling to make ends meet.
  • Homelessness is a major social issue that requires more attention and resources.
Statistics on Bed Bugs and Homelessness
97% of pest control professionals have treated bed bugs in multifamily buildings.
33% of pest control professionals have treated bed bugs in homeless shelters.
Homelessness is on the rise in many countries.

Overall, bed bugs are a reflection of the deep social issues that plague our society. From the crisis of homelessness to the stigma surrounding mental illness and poverty, we must tackle these underlying problems if we want to eradicate bed bugs for good.

Bed Bugs in Popular Culture.

Bed bugs have always been a popular subject in literature, film, and TV, and carry a lot of symbolism. By examining the way bed bugs are portrayed in popular culture, we can gain insight into what bed bugs symbolize, and how we as a society perceive them.

Symbols of Bed Bugs in Books, Movies, and TV Shows

  • Fear: Bed bugs are often used in horror stories and movies to create feelings of fear and dread. They are portrayed as small, but formidable, creatures that can infest your home and wreak havoc on your life.
  • Paranoia: Bed bugs can also represent a feeling of paranoia, as anyone can bring them into their home, no matter how clean or tidy it is. This can create a sense of unease and anxiety for many people.
  • Stigma: Bed bugs are often associated with poverty and uncleanliness, which can lead to feelings of shame and stigma for those who have dealt with a bed bug infestation.

The Role of Bed Bugs in History and Folklore

Bed bugs have been a part of human history for thousands of years, with references to them found in ancient Greek texts and medieval literature. In many cultures, bed bugs were believed to have supernatural powers and were used in charms and spells. In some cases, they were even considered to be a sign of good luck.

However, in more modern times, bed bugs have become a symbol of filth and uncleanliness. They are often associated with low-income housing, hotels, and other places where hygiene is not a top priority. This stigma has made it difficult for those who have dealt with bed bugs to speak openly about their experiences, and has led to a lack of understanding and compassion among the general public.

Challenges in Addressing the Bed Bug Epidemic

Despite the fact that bed bugs are a common problem around the world, there is still a significant amount of stigma and shame associated with them. This can make it difficult for people to seek help or speak openly about their experiences.

Additionally, many people believe that bed bugs are a sign of poor hygiene or cleanliness, which is not necessarily true. Bed bugs can be found in even the cleanest homes and hotels, and can be brought in on clothing, luggage, and other items.

Bed bugs only infest dirty homesBed bugs can be found in any home, regardless of how clean or tidy it is
Bed bugs only infest cheap hotelsBed bugs can be found in hotels of all price ranges, from budget to luxury
Bed bugs can flyBed bugs cannot fly or jump, they can only crawl

It’s important to understand that bed bugs are simply a pest, and should be approached and treated as such. By reducing the stigma and shame associated with bed bugs, we can create a more open and understanding community, and make it easier for those who have been affected to seek help, without fear of being judged.

FAQs About What Do Bed Bugs Symbolize

1. What do bed bugs symbolize in dreams?

Bed bugs in dreams can represent feelings of (un)cleanliness, insecurity, and unwanted or intrusive thoughts. Seeing bed bugs in a dream could be a message to take control of your life and get rid of any negativity.

2. What do bed bugs symbolize in literature?

In literature, bed bugs can symbolize oppression and poverty. They can also represent something that is small and seemingly harmless but can cause immense damage if left unaddressed.

3. What do bed bugs symbolize in popular culture?

In popular culture, bed bugs are often associated with uncleanliness and filth. They have also been used as a metaphor for parasitic relationships and toxic people.

4. What do bed bugs symbolize in spiritual beliefs?

In some spiritual beliefs, bed bugs are believed to represent impurity and negativity. They may also symbolize a need for purification and cleansing.

5. What do bed bugs symbolize in art?

In art, bed bugs can represent discomfort, unease, and anxiety. They are often used to create a sense of unease or to emphasize a negative emotional state.

6. What do bed bugs symbolize in psychology?

From a psychology perspective, bed bugs may represent feelings of vulnerability, powerlessness, and anxiety. They can also symbolize a sense of being invaded or violated.

7. What is the significance of bed bugs as a tattoo?

Bed bug tattoos can symbolize resilience and the ability to survive difficult situations. They may also represent the idea of overcoming adversity and coming out stronger.

Closing Thoughts: Thanks for Reading!

Exploring what bed bugs symbolize can give us insight into our own emotions and experiences. From dreams to literature, to spiritual beliefs and art, these tiny insects have made an impact on human consciousness. Remember, if you ever encounter these pests, don’t let them metaphorically or literally ‘bite’ you – quickly seek a pest control solution. Thanks for reading, and check back soon for more interesting insights!