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Arachnophobic Entomologists: When Two More Legs Make a Big Difference

For some entomologists, an apparent paradox exists: Despite choosing a career working with insects, they exhibit negative feelings toward spiders which range from mild disgust to extreme arachnophobia.

An article in American Entomologist features the results of a survey involving 41 arachnophobic entomologists who were asked questions about their fear of spiders. Although most entomologists had low scores (indicating mild disgust or mild fear), they still claimed to react differently to spiders than to insects. On the other end of the spectrum, some respondents scored in the clinically arachnophobic range and react to spiders in an almost debilitating manner.

Some of the arachnophobic and arachno-adverse entomologists developed their negative feelings toward spiders in childhood, well before choosing a career in entomology. These feelings were not overcome in adulthood.

“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 Rick Vetter, author of the article. “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. 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.”

“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.”

Click here to read the article.


  1. Esto sólo sucede en la ciudades, en los ranchos no, La razón es que los padres de familia les inculcan a sus niños de que las arañas son muy malas o peligrosas, Los periódicos, películas y la gente se encargan de engrandecer el mito.

  2. Definitely have to throw my two cents in here soon. As one of the arachnophobic entomologists I’ve had more than a few scrapes and screams when I encounter those extra legs. Looking forward to reading the full article.

  3. GEEZ. Warning for others who may, like me, click through to read the full article because you are intrigued to find others who share this admittedly irrational fear despite an interest in insects: FULL PAGE SPIDER as soon as you open the PDF.

  4. I suspect one reason for arachnophobia, at least in comparison to fear or dislike of insects, is that the heads of spiders are usually less ‘anthropomorphic’ than those of insects. For example, many insects have two large compound eyes toward the upper sides of their heads, a clypeus or center of the face, and mandibles near the bottom, while spiders typically have 8 eyes scattered around the cephalothorax (the latter in distinct contrast to the distinct head of insects), and chelicerae that fill most of the lower half or more of the face. However, I may be biased because I work mostly with social wasps which have the well-defined ‘faces’ I described above.

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