Spiders Bug Insect Researchers, Too

Even entomologists can't stomach some creepy-crawlies

Thomas Fuchs

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Retired entomologist Rick Vetter understands that not everyone shares his passion for spiders. But he was surprised to learn that even some of his colleagues, who willingly study six-legged insects, abhor eight-legged arachnids.

Vetter first noticed the spider antipathy during his career at the University of California, Riverside, where his colleagues sometimes recoiled in horror at his brown recluses and black widows.

Intrigued, Vetter arranged a survey of 41 spider-fearing entomologists. Most of their aversions qualified as a mild dislike, but some ranked as full-blown, debilitating arachnophobia, Vetter reported in American Entomologist. As is common with phobias, many of the scientists traced their fears to a traumatic childhood experience.

Asked to score 30 animals on likability, the respondents ranked spiders 29th. (Only ticks drew more scorn.) Among the reasons given for detesting arachnids: the spiders' many legs and the “unsettling” ways they move. “Even filling out the survey creeped me out,” one researcher wrote.

This article was originally published with the title "Bugs, Yes. Spiders, No."

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