Animal phobias often unwarranted fears

Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes.

Spinning tales about animal phobias.

Zoophobia is the irrational fear of animals. Approximately 6 percent of Americans are affected with animal phobias.

In unanticipated situations, perchance facing a growling bear, genetics (evolutionary forces) might justifiably activate a fight or flight reflex. However, persistent illogical distress more often affects females, mostly originating in childhood. Dr. Sigmund Freud also claimed frequency in children.

Causal factors might include an unpleasant incident such as a bee sting or a parental demeanor involving shrieking and trembling when sighting a daunting creature — plausibly a small bug. The following phobias are typical.

Arachnophobia is the fear of arachnids, often spiders. Rarely do spiders bite. Indeed, the shy, venomous brown recluse (also named violin spider for the violin marking on the head) is regularly blamed for unrelated bites. Considering that it sometimes finds shelter in a shoe, it might retaliate if encountered. Nevertheless, spiders control insects, and their spun silk is a strong and elastic natural fiber.

Chiroptophobia is the fear of bats. Folklore transforms vampires into bats. The three vampire bat species live almost exclusively on animal blood and can be found in Latin America. Supposedly, few bats carry rabies. Spectacular in flight, free-tailed bats stun spectators at evening exits in Bracken Cave in Texas where an estimated 20 million migrate. Beneficial, bats ingest mosquitoes and other crop insects, pollinate and spread seeds. Though swooping close at night, they are pursuing insects, not people’s hair.

Katsaridaphobia is the fear of cockroaches. They existed before humans and will outlive them, tolerating extremely high radiation levels and withstanding food deprivation. Even our ancestors despised this pest; John Smith of Jamestown abhorred the excrement of the "cacarooch." Bacteria on cockroach bodies contaminate food and body parts (protein) to induce allergies. In fact, children might develop asthma through exposure. Still, cockroaches diligently recycle by feeding on dead plants, dead animals and waste.

Musophobia is the fear of mice. Ridiculed is the stereotyped woman standing on a chair, escaping a mouse. Also comical is the mammoth, agitated elephant recoiling from the miniature mouse. Realistically, a pachyderm may react to any animal suddenly moving at its feet. Admittedly, these rodents contaminate and bite when cornered. Even so, mice are research models possessing characteristics and symptoms similar to humans.

Ophidiophobia is the fear of snakes. Certainly, some bite when provoked. Essentially, they prefer to slither away. In Central Florida, 35 of the state’s 46 native species thrive, including four of the six venomous species: the eastern coral snake, the Florida cottonmouth (water moccasin), dusky pygmy rattlesnake and the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. By eating frogs or mice (prey is swallowed whole), they help balance the ecosystem.

Ornithophobia is the fear of birds. Unwarranted is the particular fear of black birds (often ravens), supposedly evil and bringing ill omens. Most species are harmless, but they do defend their young and nests. Spreading anxiety are movies — "The Birds" features these creatures aggressively attacking townspeople. Even so, birds are accommodating. According to the Mormon "miracle of the gulls" in 1848 Utah, seagulls devoured crickets and saved the crops — conceivably allegorical, but birds do eat insects. Veritably, bluebirds were utilized in California vineyards to control bacteria-spreading insects causing grape blight. Moreover, birds are skilled flower pollinators.

Spheksophobia is the fear of wasps and apiphobia is the fear of bees. These insects do sting when nests are disturbed or when competing for savory picnic food. Yet, wasps consume voracious caterpillars, and bees are uncontested pollinators.

Undeniably, these creatures are indispensable to humans and the planet. And most avoid confrontations.