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When considering how humans generally perceive insects, it cannot be denied that we do not think highly of the six legged creatures. Throughout history, humanity has viewed insects in a variety of different ways, sometimes these views were largely positive, and other times negative. Today the term “insect” can be used to describe a person who is highly unattractive and/or unappealing, which indicates people’s negative underlying attitude toward insects. It is not uncommon for people to regard pretty much all insect species as “pests.” Insects are often given pest status simply because they inspire fear. However, the experts define a “pest” as “any organism that causes annoyance or injury to human beings, human possessions, or human interests.” In this context the word “injury” can include negative physical, medical or economic consequences. In reality, very few insect species meet the definition of a “pest.” Despite this, some individuals are convinced that all insects are harmful and should naturally be feared. This irrational attitude is known as “entomophobia.” This psychological condition as well as insect-related delusions have been known to drive people to insanity.

Most insects serve some sort of ecological function that is beneficial for humanity and, in many cases, the ecosystem as a whole. There are also a few insects that have no redeeming value whatsoever, such as lice and bed bugs. Many insects that are considered pests can also be essential to the proper functioning of the ecosystem, such as termites and wasps. It is customary for people to kill certain types of insects outright whether they are beneficial or not, such as boxelder bugs and cockroaches. There are other insects that are commonly treated with respect, such as ladybugs. However, some people can react to insects with a tremendous degree of fear and anxiety. This type of anxiety is known as entomophobia, and it can be serious enough to cause panic attacks. Delusional parasitosis is a more serious form of insect-related mental illness. People with this mental illness are burdened with delusions of being covered with parasitic insects, or any type of insect. For example, a case report from 1957 described a woman who believed that her body had been infested with termites. According to the patient, termites would occasionally emerge from her joints, and she even brought some of the “termites” that had infested her body to the doctor’s office on one occasion. Upon examining the bag, the doctor quickly noticed that the “termites” were actually a collection of scabs and dead pieces of skin. Delusional parasitosis presents as obsessive/compulsive behavior and is notably difficult to treat. Today, entomologists claim that only one tenth of one percent of all documented insect species fit the definition of “pest.”

Have you ever tried conditioning yourself to become less fearful around an insect that frightened you?