[ Watch the Video: Entomologists With Arachnophobia? ]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Arachnophobia, or the fear of spiders, is understandable in the typical person. However, University of California, Riverside professor Richard Vetter recently looked into the prevalence of this phobia in entomologists – men and women who work with bugs on a daily basis.
According to a report of Vetter’s study published in American Entomologist, a survey of 41 self-described arachnophobic entomologists found that these folks react differently to spiders than to insects. Based on responses to a standardized Fear of Spiders Questionnaire (FSQ), some respondents scored as clinically arachnophobic and said they react to spiders in an almost debilitating manner.
Some of the arachnophobic entomologists said their fear developed in childhood, well before making the somewhat unusual choice of pursuing a career in entomology.
“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. Through the mere existence of the study, several of them took solace in learning that they were not alone with their negative spider feelings.”
The article also revealed several amusing arachnophobia-related anecdotes, including some from respondents that regularly work with maggots and other unappealing creatures.
“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 Vetter of childhood incidents or experiences that may have contributed to their fear.
“One respondent had a recurring childhood nightmare (from age 4 to 8) of running around her house into the large web of a human-sized spider and waking up just before being eaten,” Vetter wrote in the article.
Another respondent blamed her sister for causing or increasing her arachnophobia by chasing her around the house with “dead spiders in tissues.”
One 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.
In his conclusion, 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.
“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. 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.”