As with many phobics, most of the entomologists traced their fears back to a traumatic childhood experience. In anonymous confessions included in the paper one researcher recalls witnessing a spider egg sack hatch on her bed; two others cite being tormented by a father or older sister with a live spider; another describes running face-first into an orb weaver web when he was a child; and still others remember warnings from parents that spiders are dangerous.
Although many of the entomologists acknowledged that their paradoxical fears are not rationally founded, some go to great lengths to avoid spiders and spider-related encounters. Some purposefully steer clear of colleagues' spider posters in university hallways and opt against getting professional help because spiders may be part of the therapy. One arthropod collections manager at a museum said visiting in the spider room still gives her “the jeebies,” although she knows the specimens are dead. “Even filling out the survey creeped me out,” she wrote.
Finally, several of the entomologists who participated in the study said they took solace knowing they were not the only insect experts harboring secret arachnophobia. “This study is not going to change the world, it’s just a fun curiosity to know that you have people out there who work with insects in their lives, yet have the same phobic responses as people in the general public do,” Vetter says.
“It makes you wonder how many people in medical school have a fear of shots,” Kritsky adds.