How afraid are folks of spiders? According to a survey done by a University of California at Riverside professor, even some people who study insects are petrified of the eight-legged arthropods.
Professor Richard Vetter recently looked into the prevalence of arachnophobia in entomologists – individuals who work with bugs regularly.
According to a report of Vetter’s study published in American Entomologist, Vetter surveyed 41 self-described arachnophobic entomologists and found that they react differently to spiders than to insects, with some stating that they react to spiders in an almost debilitating manner.
Some of the arachnophobic entomologists said their fear developed in childhood, well before making the choice to pursue a career in entomology, according to the website RedOrbit.
“The results of the study show that arachno-adverse entomologists share with arachnophobes in the general public both the development of response and the dislike of many of the behavioral, physical, and aesthetic aspects of spiders,” said Vetter, an entomologist himself.
“Paradoxically, I found that despite the great morphological diversity that insects exhibit and despite years of professional exposure to insects, these entomologists do not assimilate spiders into the broad arthropod morphological scheme,” he continued. “However, for the most part these entomologists realized that their feelings could not be rationally explained.”
The article also revealed several amusing arachnophobia-related anecdotes, including some from respondents that regularly work with maggots and other creatures that most people would consider extremely unappealing.
“I would rather pick up a handful of maggots than have to get close enough to a spider to kill it,” one respondent told Vetter.
“Maggots don’t sneak up on you and jump in your hair,” another replied.
Other respondents told of childhood experiences that may have contributed to their fear.
One respondent blamed her sister for contributing to her arachnophobia by chasing her around the house with “dead spiders in tissues.”
Another female respondent said she was tormented with spiders by her brother, but was able to exact a measure of retribution when she discovered that he was severely afraid of mushrooms.
Vetter said the small survey reinforced previous findings on arachnophobia; namely, that it usually begins in childhood, appears to have something to do with familiar interactions with arachnids, and affects women more than men, RedOrbit reported.
“Vetter’s study illustrates how the fear of spiders found in some entomologists may have roots in negative events that happened in childhood,” said Gene Kritksy, editor-in-chief of American Entomologist.
“This gives us insight on how to lessen this fear in future generations,” he added. “If parents have a genuine interest in the natural world, including spiders, and they share this positive interest with their children, it could reduce the incidence of arachnophobia in the long run.”