Cockroach Tattoos: Symbolism, Meanings & More

Cockroach Tattoos: Symbolism, Meanings & More

Since many cultures look down on cockroaches, you may believe tattoos of them carry negative connotations.

Particularly because of their reputation for spreading diseases and looking grotesque. However, cockroach tattoos can also possess surprisingly positive and uplifting meanings.

Generally, cockroach tattoos symbolize resilience, adaptability, and overcoming challenges.

They may also carry darker connotations about death and mortality in some cases. Cockroach tattoos remain controversial in some Eastern countries but are increasingly common in the West.

What Is the History of Cockroach Tattoos?

Up until the last few decades, cockroach tattoos were a rare sight.

From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, America began experiencing a tattoo renaissance. Part of that outpouring of creativity was a massive uptick in insect and arachnid tattoos.

Initially, this ink focused more on butterflies, spiders, and scorpions. But the cockroach quickly rose in popularity. It made for a stark contrast to the more colorful, flowery bug tattoos that were common then.


In the U.S., in particular, cockroach tattoos became associated with resilience. Because during the Cold War in the 80s, many people believed that these creatures could survive nuclear fallout.

During this time, members of some counterculture movements also got cockroach tattoos. Many identified with the way society treated them as pests despite their hardiness. And so, they proudly wore the tattoos in defiance.

Today, cockroach tattoos are increasingly common and more socially acceptable. However, many cultures, especially in Asia, still view them as a grotesque and inappropriate sight.

What Do Cockroaches Symbolize?

Despite their humble appearance, cultures worldwide have strong symbolic associations regarding cockroaches.

Here are how some countries and people generally view them:

  • Russia – In Russia, cockroaches typically symbolize adaptability and longevity. Some regions hold superstitions that say letting cockroaches live in your home brings prosperity. In prison, a tattoo of this bug can indicate a past of pickpocketing.
  • Japan – Cockroaches are generally seen as revolting pests in Japan. So much so that the bugs get censored in anime and TV. As a result, tattoos of cockroaches are almost unheard of and not acceptable to show.
  • U.S.A. – Here, cockroaches generally symbolize resilience. However, they’re simultaneously viewed as intrusive pests. As a result, tattoos of these bugs may also indicate defiance or status as an outcast.
  • Latin America – Some Central and South Americans view cockroaches as symbols of empowerment, particularly for the downtrodden. This is thanks to their ability to survive adverse conditions.

Remember that the cockroach has a very mixed reputation, even within cultures. Those who use it to symbolize positive things may still shriek at the sight of the actual insect.

So when it comes to cockroach tattoos, context is critical. Their meaning varies depending on the style of tattoo and surrounding details.


What Do Cockroach Tattoos Mean?

While cockroaches themselves are largely detested, tattoos of them are becoming more popular. They can mean a myriad of things, both positive and negative.

Next, I’ll list some of the most common messages behind this kind of ink.

Positive Meanings

Below are some of the positive meanings behind cockroach tattoos:

  • Resilience
  • Overcoming impossible odds
  • Adaptability
  • Conquering fears
  • Longevity
  • Abundance and prosperity
  • Wealth
  • Surviving a traumatic event
  • Humbleness

Negative Meanings

Cockroach tattoos can also carry negative and cautionary connotations, such as:

  • Bad omens (especially when depicted dead)
  • Decay
  • Poverty
  • Downtroddenness
  • Trauma
  • Defilement or dirtiness
  • Immorality
  • Political dissidence

Additionally, the death’s head cockroach is a unique species that symbolizes poor luck and unexpected death. Ink featuring them often emphasizes the skull-like pattern on their head.


Characteristics and Styles of Cockroach Tattoos

Cockroach tattoos come in numerous styles, which can influence what they mean.

In the U.S., cockroach tattoos commonly come in the American traditional style. Frequently, they’ll be accompanied by a splash of color and a phrase about life and mortality. In these cases, the tattoos are often cautionary or symbolize surviving hardship.

Other artists opt to add a cartoonish flair to cockroach tattoos for humorous effect. This style also helps make them easier on the eyes since cockroaches revolt many people.

However, realistic tattoos of cockroaches are also becoming increasingly widespread. Often placed around the neck, this ink can easily elicit reactions of shock. Or challenge conventional notions of beauty.

It’s also popular to get multiple cockroaches tattooed at once since the bugs are rarely alone. Doing so can symbolize family or a group of friends getting through difficult times.

Where Do Cockroach Tattoos Usually Go?

Most people get their cockroach tattoos on their arms. Because cockroach ink is often intended to evoke shock or interest, displaying them prominently is vital.


Plus, the location of the tattoo carries meaning in certain cultures. In Russia, cockroaches on the arm or hand are a common prison tattoo for pickpockets and thieves.

However, cockroach tattoos are also often inked in other places such as:

  • The legs, particularly climbing upwards
  • Resting above the collarbone
  • Around the neck
  • On the side of the head

Tattoos on top of the collarbone or shoulder are particularly prevalent. They can symbolize “shouldering” a burden or serve as a reminder.

Does the Type of Cockroach Affect Tattoo Meaning?

Considering there are numerous cockroach species, you might wonder if that makes a difference.

Madagascar hissing cockroach is the most popular type of pet cockroach. As a result, fanatics may get tattoos of them to commemorate their hobby. This species is recognizable by its deep brown color and immense size.

Meanwhile, the American cockroach is known for its distinctive wings. In tattoos, these bugs often symbolize adaptability and fortitude. Their wings can also be open, signifying freedom.


Then, there’s the death’s head cockroach. As the name suggests, these bugs have skull-like patterns on their head.

American traditional ink of cockroaches often features them, usually signifying bad omens or messages about life and death.


Cockroach tattoos are still somewhat controversial but rapidly becoming more accepted and popular. They generally symbolize resilience in the face of adversity and longevity.

However, they can also carry darker meanings about mortality and surviving trauma.

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