Keep on Dreaming

But did Blondie and Aerosmith ever dream about insects?

I knew a Chinese girl who told me that she often dreamt about snakes and that the dreams frightened her. But I love to dream and my dreams never frighten me. It’s like entering a parallel world: you can be in unusual places, experience otherworldly adventures, solve scientific problems and, like Alice in Wonderland, meet strange creatures. The few dreams I’ve had in which insects appeared were pleasant ones, like finding a new and fantastic species of weevil with moss growing on its back or discovering an insect so small that one could hardly see it without a magnifying glass. And yet there are apparently people who encounter insects in their dreams that frighten them just like the snakes did in the dreams of my Chinese friend. I suggested to her that I could try to replace the snakes in her dream with ants or perhaps flies, but she did not like that idea.

By chance I came across a 2012 paper in the journal “Insects” by Barrett Klein, who wrote about people that had dreams about insects. Interpreting dreams that contain insects in them is a controversial issue and I guess the quotation by Barrett Klein attributed to James Horne that “Sometimes it can be difficult to say who is fantasizing more, the dreamer or the dream ‘interpreter’” is not too far off the mark. Often the interpretation depends on who dreamed what about the insect. Farmers, for example, dreaming about locusts are more likely to be worried about their crops and nasty people than others who will connect grasshoppers with a sense of freedom and enlightenment and fun.

When flies, fleas and lice occur in a dream anxieties, frustrations, fears and sorrow may be behind it, but dreams in which butterflies play a role are frequently linked to creative thinking, romantic encounters, and feelings of happiness. Dreams of bees and wasps are difficult to interpret as they could signify positive things like wealth, good luck and success and an ability to meet challenges , but also that trouble and dangers lie ahead and that fear and sickness may take over and that there are enemies to get to the dreamer. Unsurprisingly, beetles, representing the by far most species-rich order of insects, can, on the one hand, be part of pleasant dreams in which the beetles may be linked to success and positive images (ladybird beetles are so cute) or, on the other hand, may feature I dreams in which they are seen as harbingers of loss, death and destruction (carrion beetles and dung rollers perhaps).

It has been noted that the insect dreams of children aged between four and six years of age reflect the children’s  situation of being small and weak, basically powerless and it has been documented that insect and snake phobias were more prevalent in the female students’ than in the male students’ dreams, based on studies that had involved several Canadian universities. The great enthusiast of dream interpretations, Sigmund Freud, recounts and explains several cases in which psychological problems of people manifested themselves in their dreams containing a variety of insects.

Being well aware that (at least) mammals other than humans also dream as behavioural observations and encephalographic brain recordings have shown, one cannot help but think, if their dreams might not occasionally also feature insects. And going a step further one might even wonder if sleeping insects themselves not only dream, but would then have dreams about those annoying humans. 

© Dr V.B. Meyer-Rochow and, 2020.
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