I guess I can’t trust entomologists anymore

One of the winners of the 2020 IgNobels was this study of attitudes in entomology.

Richard Vetter won an Ig Nobel for his paper looking at why people who spend their lives studying insects are creeped out by spiders.

His paper, “Arachnophobic Entomologists: Why Two Legs Make all the Difference,” appeared in the the journal American Entomologist in 2013.

Vetter, a retired research associate and spider specialist who worked in the entomology department at the University of California Riverside for 32 years, found during the course of his work that many insect lovers hate spiders.

“It always struck me as funny that when I talked to entomologists about spiders, they would say something along the lines of, ‘Oh, I hate spiders!’” he said in a telephone interview.

He found that many bug lovers had had a negative experience with a spider, including bites and nightmares. The fact that spiders are often hairy, fast, silent and have all those creepy eyes freaks out entomologists, he said.

Except…the entomologists I know are appreciative of spiders. Unless they’ve been lying to me, I don’t know that this is really a problem.

Besides, once you get to know spiders, everyone loves them.


  1. garnetstar says

    Ants. I love spiders, but ants are creepy. I had a nightmare where I was asleep and the wall behind me burst open and a flood of black ants came out.

    And, ants bite too, they run fast and have weird eyes. OK, they’re not exactly hairy, but that’s no excuse.

  2. PaulBC says

    I am not an entomologist, but I spent a lot of time watching and reading about insects as kid. I completely understand the feeling. Insects are just friendly little robots. I especially like metallic beetles. But spiders are pure evil. I always feel like they know I am there with them and are lying in wait. I have a greater ability to deal with them now. The ones that freak me out tend to have bloated abdomens. I can admire a beautiful orb web, but I still find its weaver threatening. And funnel webs… I just don’t want to know what’s lurking in there. Run away!

    I don’t think it’s really the hair or multiple eyes that does it. Tarantulas bother me less (not that I want them crawling on me).

    I think it may first off just be a matter of early socialization–the way spiders are portrayed in stories. There is Shelob for instance, though I’m sure spiders freaked me out before I read any Tolkien. The number of legs might not be the thing, but the way they move is different.

    House centipedes with many and long legs are kind of freaky too. I don’t think they give me the same kind of Lovecraftian terror though.

  3. microraptor says

    Yesterday I felt a tickling on my arm. I looked down and there was a spider.

    I swept it off behind the couch, which seems like a place that a spider would like to be. I hope.

  4. redwood says

    Maybe the insect-lovers don’t like spiders because the spiders like to eat their beloved insects. I, on the other hand, always smile and say “thank you” when I see mosquitoes and flies in webs.

  5. PaulBC says

    I am repeating myself, but does anyone have feelings about house centipedes? E.g. https://bugguide.net/node/view/541774

    If it was just matter of increasing leg count, I would find them scarier than spiders, but I don’t. I suppose I would find scorpions pretty disturbing if we had any here, but even then I think it would be more a matter of taking reasonable precautions than visceral fear.