I believe that's exactly how it happened. They don't look like any real world bugs, of course, but their characteristics are fairly bug-like. They curl up into balls, live in hives, their shields are reminiscent of pincers on beetles as well as the shape of their eyes, they have hard exoskeletons to protect soft internal insides (Krana), they have a centralized queen system.
Christian Faber had a lot to do with their iconography as well. On his Faber Files website he has a blog post where he describes the inspiration behind the Bohrok symbol, namely the depictions of ancient Egyptian scarabs, and he also shows an unused promotional picture showing the evolution of the Toa and Bohrok from the same common source, where he basically made his own guesses as to the form of the Bahrag (spiders that could carry Bohrok on their back) and the different evolutionary stages of the Bohrok.
Link to the blog post: http://faberfiles.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-bohrok-logo-design.html