Insect Phobias: What Bugs People

Updated December 27, 2021

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Showering at the gym to avoid a spider in the bathroom at home, waking up family members in the middle of the night to kill a cockroach, missing family reunions because they are hosted outdoors; these behaviors are just a few reactions to major bug phobias. Fear of insects and mites is one of the most common phobias in the world. The usually irrational revulsion to these animals can oftentimes can grow from plausible reasons. Typical bug phobias include arachnophobia (fear of spiders), myrmecophobia (fear of ants), muscaphobia (fear of flies), katsaridaphobia (fear of cockroaches), apiphobia (fear of bees), and entomophobia or insectophobia (fear of insects in general). Distinguishing healthy caution of these bugs from obsessive fear and phobia is something with which a small number of people struggle.

Using the term phobia when describing a fear is specific and extreme. Phobias are beyond ordinary fears; they are crippling anxiety disorders. Lockwood (1960) stated: “In appropriate doses, anxiety improves performance and fear protects us. But in excess, anxiety becomes debilitating and fear transforms into phobia” (p. 5). To have a medically diagnosed phobia is to have a severe anxiety disorder which affects day to day activities, including social and work life. Someone with a bug phobia would adjust his or her entire life to avoid the insect they fear. These people have issues with panic attacks, are too frightened to deal with and attempt to overcome their problems, and remember encounters with the creatures in an exaggerated way.

Other symptoms of a serious bug phobia include physical infirmities, such as sickening feelings and panic, and a certain amount of paranoia. This occurs when individuals with severe bug and mite phobias are convinced they can physically feel the insects crawling over or underneath their skin at times when they are nowhere near the individuals. The medical name for this physical symptom of a skin-crawling feeling is formication. Though formication is a symptom of a severe phobia, the sensation can even be felt by those with mild bug fears. Phobic symptoms may have similarities with everyday fears, but there is definitely a distinction.

Having a phobia is not the same as having an ordinary or even severe fear. To reiterate, phobias are crippling disorders, not tolerable aversions. Using the term “phobia” casually can lead to confusion and lessen the credibility of true phobias. This detrimental behavior is incredibly common with bug phobias and anxiety. A considerable amount of individuals claim to have a bug or insect phobia, whereas just a miniscule percentage of the population actually does. This diminishes how authentic phobias, such as entomophobia, are treated and respected. Despite all phobias being irrational, a great deal of them stem from genuine issues.

In spite of the fact every phobia, by nature, is unreasonable, quite a few develop from logical concerns. Apprehensiveness around bugs are not as unjustifiable as humans might believe, one such reason being the serious consequences of bug exposure or bites. Of these, the most standard origin of insect fears is the spread of disease. Because bugs live in filth and sewage, they have always been and still are the perfect hosts for germs. Kasperbauer (2015) affirmed, “As food and as vectors of disease, animals have served as a primary cause of death and illness in our evolutionary history” (p. 169). Insects have spread epidemics which have swept disease and death throughout the world, thus, feeling apprehensive around them is more than warranted. However, the spread of disease is not the only reason people are afraid of insects and mites.

Bites and stings are serious concern for countless individuals. Some may be nervous around critters simply because of the pain of the bite or sting, while others fear more serious consequences. Bug bites or stings from insects such as bees, wasps, ants or scorpions can be life threatening to some. Allergies and reactions encompass a wide range, depending on the person and the insect, and can often be quite threatening. A less serious though nonetheless real reason people are scared of mites and insects are harmless yet painful bites. One frequent example of this is the tick. Though there is a miniscule chance of catching a disease or having a painful bite from a tick, most tick bites are harmless. Regardless, certain people are terrified of them. “Individuals with entomophobia can experience an overwhelming itch or an unpleasant crawling sensation all over or underneath their skin. They may have such anxious thoughts about being bitten by a tick that they are afraid to go outside” (Black, 2018, n.p.). Even though there is reason to be wary of ticks and other insects, behavior such as this (staying indoors in avoidance of ticks) is preposterous. Exhibiting this type of behavior is clearly the quality of a person with a bone fide phobia. Although these various levels of uneasiness around bugs are valid, countless people are terrified by insects for no supportable reason.

There are clearly an abundance of sound reasons for being on one’s guard around insects. Even so, a great deal of absolutely harmless bugs elicit terror into people. There are a handful of causes, depending on both the individual and the type of bug. One explanation may be fear in the brain not being distinguished from disgust. The emotions run closely together and therefore have the potential to be confused with one another. Because of this, disgust of an insect (a natural human reaction) can be mistakenly processed as fear. Some phobics unconsciously attribute disgust of insects’ habitats (rotting food and filth) with the bugs themselves. Others are revolted by no justification aside from the way critters move. The disgust factor is not the only illogical reason bugs frighten people.

Of the various irrational reasons people fear bugs, a few are more typical than others. One is the confusion between fear and disgust, another is habit influenced by family and peers. In some cases, almost no aspects of the individual’s life factors into a phobia; the phobia can develop on its own. Fearing specific bugs can be a learned behavior. Humans are socialized to fear certain bugs as they grow up; doing so can even be a cultural trait sometimes. For instance, mothers can unintentionally pass their fears of spiders to their children. One article revealed, “Some people no doubt learn their insect phobia from their parents. If mother screams when she finds a spider, the children may well do so too. But on the whole, most people find that their phobia develops gradually, or comes and goes over a long period, and no particular cause or trigger is involved” (“Insect Phobias,” 2017, n.p.).

Fears and phobias of bugs are so often groundless and unfounded, which is easy to forget when people exaggerate insect dangerousness. Flies, grasshoppers, crickets, and the bulk of everyday spiders are completely harmless creatures, of which some people cannot be convinced. Another relatively harmless insect which evokes fear is the bed bug. It may be people detest these bugs because they associate their beds with privacy and safety, which is then invaded by bed bugs. Regardless of the insect type, the predominance of both supposed and authentic phobias is irrational.

Bug phobias are one of the regularly given answers when people are asked about their fears. However, a majority of these responses are not factual. A true phobia is a debilitating disorder and not to be confused with everyday anxiety or nervousness over something, such as a bug. Insects are one of the most common and accepted phobias (insectophobia); even so, people with these fears often have no reasonable basis for them. The fear is an automatic response in reaction to habit and culture, not actual fear. On the other hand, there are some legitimate reasons to be cautious about filthy bugs, such as the spread of diseases or allergies. There are hardly any psychological grounds for bug phobias, such as associating bugs themselves with the dingy, mucky conditions in which they live. Distinguishing genuine, healthy concern from baseless fear toward bugs is key to avoid wasting incredible amounts of time and energy.


  1. Black, R. (2018, July 19). Entomophobia (The Fear of Bugs): Are You an Insectophobe? Retrieved from https://www.psycom.net/entomophobia-fear-of-bugs
  2. Insect Phobias. (2017). Retrieved from http://anxietycare.org.uk/phobias/insect-phobias/
  3. Kasperbauer, T. (2015). Animals as disgust elicitors. Biology & Philosophy, 30(2), 167–185. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10539-015-9478-y
  4. Lockwood, J. A. (2013). The infested mind : Why humans fear, loathe and love insects (p. 5). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
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Insect Phobias: What Bugs People. (2021, Dec 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/insect-phobias-what-bugs-people/


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