Collection Inspiration: Insects

Posted on 8/22/2023

Though many consider insects to be pests, they're actually critical to our ecosystem. Here are 10 notes inspired by the world's most beautiful insects.

National Be Nice to Bugs Day, which is celebrated in the summer, serves as a reminder of how important insects are to the ecosystem. Insects perform many vital functions, including aerating soil, pollination and pest control. They’re also revered in certain cultures and used as sustenance in others. Altogether, insects are incredibly important to our way of life.

Although insects can sometimes be destructive — as seen here with this Cuba 1896 1,000 Pesos note that suffers from insect damage — the ecosystem could not survive without them. Here are ten interesting notes that feature insects, and some facts about each.

Cuba, El Banco Español De La Isla De Cuba 1896 1,000 Pesos graded PMG 35 Choice Very Fine
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Ten Notes Featuring Insects

Belgium – Dragonfly

Dragonflies are beneficial insects that eat other less-desirable bugs, such as mosquitoes and flies. In addition, dragonflies are extremely important to the health of wetlands. They act as barometers — dragonfly larvae depend on well-oxygenated water to survive, so if the dragonfly population decreases, something is likely wrong with the water. These flying insects are also a symbol of good luck in various cultures. One is featured on the back of this Belgium, Banque Nationale ND (1982-92) 5,000 Francs note.

Belgium, Banque Nationale ND (1982-92) 5,000 Francs graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Switzerland – Ant

Ants are one of the most common insects in the world, with more than 12,000 known species. Members of the Formicidae family, they can be found nearly anywhere except extremely cold climates like Antarctica. Ants are one of the most social species of insects, and studying ant behavior has led to several discoveries in human activity! Auguste-Henri Forel, featured on the front of this Switzerland, National Bank 1987 1,000 Franken note, spearheaded investigations into the structure of the human brain by studying the behavior of ants, helping to develop the neuron theory.

Switzerland, National Bank 1987 1000 Franken graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Cape Verde – Desert Locust

The Cape Verde archipelago is home to several insect species, including the gregarious desert locusts. Desert locusts are one of the few types of grasshoppers that change color and form migratory swarms under the right conditions. Unfortunately, these swarms are usually huge, averaging millions of locusts at a time. Because they feed on agriculture, the desert locust has become a major pest across Africa. In 2003-2004, a large desert locust infestation devastated Africa’s food supply, causing around $2.5 billion in harvest losses. The desert locust is featured on this Cape Verde, Banco de Cabo Verde 1992 1,000 Escudos note.

Cape Verde, Banco de Cabo Verde 1992 1,000 Escudos graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Germany – Wasp and Tussock Caterpillar

This Germany – Federal Republic 1991 500 Deutsche Mark features entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian and a wasp on its front. Wasps are well-known stinging insects that strike fear in many people’s hearts, and for good reason. Unlike bees, wasps don’t lose their stinger after they sting something, so they can use it over and over if they feel threatened. Each sting burns intensely, so avoid getting stung at all costs!

The back of the Germany 500 Deutsche Mark depicts a tussock moth caterpillar. These fuzzy caterpillars can be found in a variety of colors, including white, yellow, orange and brown. They feed on tree foliage, shrubbery and other plant life. When they conclude their larval stage, they hatch from their cocoons as tussock moths.

Germany - Federal Republic 1991 500 Deutsche Mark graded PMG 64 Choice Uncirculated
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Denmark – Danish Red Underwing

The Danish Red Underwing on the back of this Denmark, Nationalbank 1997 100 Kroner is a common sight in England and Wales. Their larvae hatch and feed during the summers, then emerge from their cocoons in the fall. During their life cycles, the red underwings play an important role in pollinating flowers. As they feed on nectar, the moths spread the pollen that sticks to their legs and antennae to other plants.

Denmark, Nationalbank 1997 100 Kroner graded PMG 68 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Suriname – Praying Mantis

Suriname is home to the choeradodis strumaria, otherwise known as the hooded mantis — a type of praying mantis with a leaf-like hood. These hoods help to camouflage mantises on trees and shrubbery while hunting for prey. Praying mantises provide plant pest control. They have also contributed to human culture in several ways — the ancient Egyptians revered mantises and believed they had supernatural powers, while the Chinese have developed martial arts styles based on the mantis' movements.

Suriname, Centrale Bank 2000 25 Gulden graded PMG 66 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Faroe Islands – Ghost Moth

The Faroe Islands / Danish Administration 2003 200 Kronur shows a ghost moth on its front. In European culture, the ghost moth — or ghost swift — is believed to symbolize the souls of the departed because of their ghost-white wings. Moths serve as pollinators in the environment and contribute to the food chain in a major way. They’re common prey for birds, mammals and other insects. The Faroe Islands, located north of Scotland, are home to more than 100 species of moths.

Faeroe Islands / Danish Administration 2003 200 Kronur graded PMG 70★ Seventy Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Fiji – Nanai (Cicada)

Fiji has an ancient legend about the Nanai, or Fiji’s local cicadas. Long ago, two warring nations’ chiefs met beside a stream in the hills of Vitu-Levu to make peace and decide on borders. After much arguing, they settled on a fair border and decided to exchange gifts. While one chief gave the other Ura Dina (prawns) as a food source, the other gave his counterpart a Nanai. Though the Nanai only emerge every eight years, their numbers were so great that the nation never ran out of food.

Nanai are periodical cicadas and, just like in the legend, only emerge from underground every eight years — the last time was in 2017. As a tribute to the legend and the Nanai, the Reserve Bank of Fiji released this 100 Dollars note.

Fiji, Reserve Bank ND (2013) 100 Dollars graded PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Poland – Bees

This Poland 013 Units Test Note has three types of honeybees on its reverse, each depicting a different bee with an integral role in a hive’s cycle. The smallest bee is a worker bee — females who are not fit for reproduction, so they are regulated to collect pollen from flowers or perform various tasks around the hive. The middle bee is a drone, or a male whose only function is to mate with the queen. Finally, the largest bee on the note is the queen bee, or the single bee responsible for making eggs in the hive.

Bees are essential to the environment. As the single most important pollinator in the ecosystem, bees are responsible for pollinating 80 percent of all flowering plants, including fruits, nuts and vegetables. Though some are afraid of bees because of their ability to sting, bees are usually docile and harmless unless provoked.

PWPW (Poland) 2013 013 Units Test Note graded PMG 69 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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Egypt – Scarab Beetle

The scarab beetle is featured on the right side of the back of this Egypt, Central Bank 2021 €50 note. The people of ancient Egypt worshipped a particular species of scarab beetle as a symbol of rebirth, regeneration and protection in the afterlife. To them, that beetle’s dung ball — a ball of debris that insects within the dung beetle category are often seen rolling around — symbolized the world and its constant rotation. Meanwhile, dung beetles play an important role in agriculture: They improve soil conditions by burying and consuming dung, which becomes fertilizer for plants.

Egypt, Central Bank 2021 £50 graded PMG 65 Gem Uncirculated EPQ
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If these insect notes inspired you, check out our other Collection Inspiration columns for more collecting ideas. Also, be sure to follow PMG on Facebook, PMG on Instagram and PMG on Twitter for articles and interesting notes posted daily.

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