eli5 Why are humans so scared/disgusted by bugs?


This question just popped up in my mind after being scared by the tiniest of spiders. It’s such a universal fear yet it’s completely irrational, in most cases atleast.

There’s very little most insects can do to you, unless you live in Australia lol.

So why are we so scared of something that we can just kill with one slap.

Is it socialisation? Some primal instinct?

In: Biology


Evolutionary instincts.

Our ancestors learned quickly that insects are vectors for disease and that some of these are poisonous/venomous:any large concentration of insect life implies that the area is unsafe to live in either due to disease or decay of corpses that imply this zone is a predator’s hunting ground.

I think the primal fear explanation is fairly limited. There are very few dangerous/venomous insects and arachnids. Human toddlers and the great apes don’t generally show fear/disgust toward all Arthropoda. Quite a few human cultures use them as an important food source. I would think it’s mostly a socialized filth taboo. Bugs are seen as unclean/dirty.

It’s a puzzle.

For me the arthropods are a constant source of fascination.

In terms of animal biomass, this is an Arthropod Planet…

I’m scared of them because there is so much diversity, and I have no clue what could actually hurt me, save for a few bugs that I have knowledge about.

I have read that factors that repulse or scare humans, are those that are not human-like. So the less human-like, the more we fear it because it is so alien.

For example: spiders with the eight legs. Millipedes and the like, with the billion legs. Snakes, which have no legs. Animals with huge fangs. Nocturnal animals like bats, who operate at night when humans are usually asleep and vulnerable.

It makes sense to me, in an intuitive way.

Because they look ugly so having something as ugly as some of them look crawling on you knowing they can potentially bite you weirds me out

I read somewhere that fear of insects can be more nurture than nature, a learned fear. That toddlers are more likely to pick up bugs than any other age.

Makes sense to me. I imagine most parents would tell their kids that bugs might bite them or have germs if they saw them playing with them.

I think this is social convention. Bugs are seen as dirty. You grew up watching your parents, teachers, people on tv avoid bugs and equate them with disease and squalour. You subconsciously picked up this association.

I suppose the question is do people living in uncontacted tribes in the rainforest show fear or disgust of bugs? Probably not, aside from one’s the know are dangerous or signs of decay. But who knows.