Pest Phobias: Are They Irrational?

Pest Phobias: Are They Irrational?

Fear and anxiety are part of being human. We are supposed to be afraid of things. These familiar—albeit unpleasant—feelings are as much a part of who we are as our hearts or kidneys. It’s a good thing, too—fear (and the fight-or-flight response it inspires) has kept human beings alive for hundreds of thousands of years.

It’s true that fear can drive us to do irrational things, but that doesn’t always mean the fear itself is irrational. Sure, you may feel silly after yelling and jumping because of a spider, but the fear that caused your admitted overreaction might be totally valid!

Pest phobias are among the most common fears reported. In other words, they’re completely normal… and not for nothing. Honestly, our ingrained dislike of pests stems deeper than we’d probably care to admit.


bug biting flesh

There are legitimately dangerous pests.

Studies show we are born with some level of innate aversion to bugs, but pest phobias are learned for the most part. Between fatal allergies, deadly diseases, or just painful bites, it’s no delusion that bugs can cause actual harm.

After all, fleas killed millions of people by carrying the Black Plague.


While illness was—and in some cases still is—a great cause to fear pests, you don’t need to be afraid of a deadly virus to be afraid of bugs.

Perhaps you watched your little brother yelp in pain after wandering into a red ant colony. Maybe a bee allergy left you gasping for air. Possibly, a nasty spider bite left your leg red and itchy for weeks. Whatever your reason for fear, there’s a good chance it stems from your experiences.

And there’s nothing irrational about learning from your experiences.



Bugs go hand-in-hand with death and decay.

Have you ever thrown out a piece of fruit because it was bug-infested?

Did you stop to question why?

In all likelihood, you interpreted the presence of bugs as a sign that the fruit had gone bad—a completely valid conclusion. Pests are integral to organic life cycles. Their scavenging of dead, decaying plants and animals speeds up the decomposition process. Humans are no exception… and we hate it.

In this case, it’s not the bugs themselves that make us shiver; it’s the thought of dying.

In fact, we’re so afraid of death that we still try to counteract it after we’re already dead. Seriously! The goal of the embalming process is to slow decomposition, including deterring pest predation… completely unnecessary when you think about it.

Movies and shows take advantage of our association between bugs and death to scare us—whether its using insects to symbolize death or straight-up showing a bug-infested body.


scary bug

We don’t feel kinship with bugs.

There’s a reason why dogs (and not snakes) are man’s best friends. Dogs are familiar to us. They cuddle, they rough-house, they get excited when they see their friends and family, they want to steal your food, and they bark when they’re happy and whimper when they’re sad. When they do things, we think we see and understand their emotions. Furthermore, they look like us.

Not exactly, obviously.

But in general they have facial structures similar to ours. Their fur (or even better, their hair) is similar to our own. They even try to use their paws the way we use our hands. It’s so cute!

Due to all of this, we feel connected to dogs. We see ourselves in our dogs, and that’s comforting.

On the contrary, snakes, spiders, ants, roaches, beetles, and other pests are not comforting. We don’t interact similarly to them, we can’t read their emotions (if they have any), and they look nothing like us. In fact, a big part of why we find their appearance so revolting is because they look nothing like us.

Yeah, you could say in today’s world that it’s an irrational reason for fear. But we’re biologically programmed to feel anxious about things we don’t know or understand. It’s that us-against-the-world mentality that kept us, and many other animals, alive in primitive circumstances. Historically, it wasn’t only rational—it was necessary.


person spraying child with bug spray


Ultimately, you can decide whether or not you think pest phobias are irrational. Either way, there’s no reason to be ashamed if you’re scared of bugs. If anything, it shows that you’re alert and sensibly cautious—both good things in the long run! If you need help keeping these little critters out of your home, give us a call. From simple advice to comprehensive pest management, we’re here to help improve your well-being… and your life!