NEW YORK — A fear of bugs, insects, or arachnids is among the most common of phobias. The vast majority of spiders, ants, beetles, and other creepy crawlers are harmless, but that doesn’t stop millions of people from fearing these tiny creatures. Stereotypically, most assume that women are more likely to freak out over a bug sighting than a man, but a new survey of 2,000 Americans is challenging that belief.
Researchers found that while 22% of female respondents said they are “very scared” of bugs, 32% of male participants shared the same fearful sentiment.
The research, commissioned by Zevo, surveyed participants on their overall bug knowledge as well. Interestingly, six in 10 respondents said they are confident in their bug-identification abilities. However when participants’ insect knowledge was actually tested, the results told a different tale. Only 40% knew what a bed bug looked like, and 51% couldn’t even identify a fruit fly.
Meanwhile, 62% were indeed able to identify a roly poly and 33% could tell the difference between a wasp and bumblebee (24% said a wasp was a bumblebee).
Going back to gender differences, 59% of male participants and 49% of females consider themselves “very knowledgeable” when it comes to bugs. When those beliefs were put to the test, more men (53%) were indeed able to correctly name “entomology” as the study of insects than women (43%). Women, though, (43%) were more adept at spotting carpenter ants than men (39%). Male respondents (53%) were better equipped to spot ticks than female respondents (43%), but more women knew that cockroaches can lay over 50 eggs in one sitting.
“Some insect pests can be highly prolific under favorable conditions. As an example, German cockroaches lay ootheca that can contain up to 60 eggs,” says Dr. Josh Benoit, an entomologist at the University of Cincinnati, in a statement. “These eggs can then develop into adults within about 90-110 days. The high reproduction can allow populations to grow quickly and become a substantial nuisance.”
If one thing is clear from the survey, it’s that many Americans overestimate their bug intellect. Incredibly, only 35% of all respondents knew that honeybees and bumblebees are different insects. Ladybugs come in a variety of colors, but 49% of respondents wrongly said they are always red and black. Another 28% incorrectly thought that a wasp immediately dies after using its stinger.
Still, 55% did know that cockroaches can freeze and unfreeze during winter, and 60% are aware that bugs have lived on planet Earth since before the dinosaurs.
Among all respondents, 64% said they are scared of bugs. When asked what’s so scary about these little creatures, 56% cited bug bites, 45% said they hate momentarily seeing a bug in their home and then losing track of it, and 44% are petrified that bugs will invade their bed as they sleep.
“Few people realize that the indoor biome is a specific habitat that only certain insects can tolerate. This indoor environment usually has a different temperature and relative humidity compared to outside,” Benoit explains. “Pests that live in this area have specific adaptations to survive and proliferate in this specific environment, for example, cockroaches can tolerate extended periods without food and water since these resources might not be readily available.”
So, how do most respondents deal with pests in their home? A significant 55% turn to bug spray, 44% use mosquito-repellent bracelets, and 41% always have a fly swatter nearby. Despite the seemingly heavy use of bug spray, 56% of all participants said they often worry about chemicals in the spray. Also, 30% have tried out “home remedies” in their pursuit of a bug-free home.
The survey was conducted by OnePoll.