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Even Bug Scientists Are Afraid Of Spiders

Above: Even people who work with insects every day might get spooked at the sight of a daddy longlegs.

Aired 9/16/13 on KPBS News.

Survey shows even scientists who study bugs for a living can suffer from arachnophobia, the fear of spiders.

If anyone should know not to freak out over a teensy little spider, it's a scientist. But as it turns out, even people who study bugs for a living can suffer from arachnophobia.

Rick Vetter is a leading spider scientist and a retired UC Riverside researcher. For the latest issue of American Entomologist, he conducted a survey to find out how common the fear of spiders is among entomologists.

He got dozens of responses from insect researchers showing varying degrees of arachnophobia. Some reported only a mild aversion. But Vetter said others were so scared by spiders, they couldn't possibly handle them in the lab.

"Another person who works with maggots said she would rather grab a handful of maggots than get close enough to a spider to kill it," he said.

Vetter thinks these phobias are often instilled at a young age. That could account for why even hyper-rational scientists can sometimes have such an irrational fear of spiders.

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