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ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Can bugs really sense when you're afraid?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (25184points) July 18th, 2011

And does knowing that you’re afraid make them more aggressive?
Or is that just a tactic used on kids to try and talk them out of their irrational fear?

It’s no secret that I am terrified of bugs. I hate every creepy crawly, I don’t even want ladybugs on me. At the same time, I swear that I can not walk out of my back door without being ambushed. If there is a group of people standing outside with me, I am always the one being dive-bombed by a bee or with a beetle stuck in my hair. I really don’t think it’s just that I’m more aware, because of my phobia, but I’m pretty sure that I am frequently targeted… so to speak.

Do they really sense my fear? Is that why I’m always under attack? Or is it more likely that they smell my shampoo or perfume… or maybe it really is all in my head.

What do you think?

Please refrain from making fun of me too much. ha.

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34 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I don’t know if they can sense fear.I think they can be attracted to perfumes and hair products.I have had to run from bees before.
I have been challenged by a weird looking beetle and various spiders too.
I am always victorious.Fight back,Neffie! Fight back!! :)

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Goes with territory, bugs just ambush you. They also ambush everybody else too.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Just for the record, I’m not exaggerating. I made my husband start to pay attention recently because I literally can’t walk outside without being attacked.

Ugh. This is why I hate bugs.

@lucillelucillelucille if by “fight back” you mean flail around like I’m having some sort of seizure while trying not to scream.. that’s exactly what I do. ;)

stardust's avatar

I had this problem for ages. I literally could not go anywhere without spiders popping up (I was terrified of them). I honestly thought the little brats were following me around. Low and behold I made steps to overcome the fear and they haven’t been around as much.
Maybe they’ve gone to prey on another poor fearful one.

Seelix's avatar

Bugs are just jerks.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille you should have seen my grace at 5am when I was chased by a carpenter bee. I even sang a little, too. It went something like this: “what the (expletive) you stupid (expletive) little fuzzball, you’re not even supposed to be (expletive) awake, yet! (expletive!)”

@Seelix you said it, sister.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Bugs like sweet things. You’re sweet, thus you get the bugs.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Geez, @ANef_is_Enuf , you’re so damned cute I want to get caught in your hair.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JilltheTooth that’s totally different. I want you to get caught in my hair. I will even serve you coffee when you do so.

I definitely do not serve coffee to the beetles. They get sprayed with the nearest chemical in a bottle and then the shop-vac.

Cruiser's avatar

Coming back from camping in Michigan I hear this shrieking in the back seat as my 12 yr old is freaking out big time apparently over a HUGE and I mean HUGE ant almost 2 inches long! He wasn’t able to dispatch the bugger and I don’t give a s#it what that bugs was sensing as afaict it is still in my car waiting to crawl up my leg! (WTF is it with Michigan bugs)

ucme's avatar

Fuck yeah! I speak from experience here, when a wasp comes under my radar it’s “hello human windmill” time. I mean seriously it’s cold sweat & girly screams with me.
Does it work? Do the little bastards buzz off? Uh huh, do they eckers like.
Apparently if you stand still when they land on you, once they realise you’re not a food source they fly away. Something to do with disturbing the air flow antognises them…..aww bless.
If I stood still while a wasp makes out with my arm i’d want a fucking purple heart!!

LuckyGuy's avatar

This is so nerdy I can’t believe I am actually saying this in public.
I attach a strip of clear flypaper (Window Fly Trap strips) to a ball cap. They are about 8 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. I tape the strip at the back of the cap with duct tape and use a piece of twist tie to hold it in the front about 3 inches off my head.

When I work outside, the deer flies immediately come and then… just disappear. When I take the hat off I find 10 of the little suckers stuck. Very satisfying.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@worriedguy Nerd!!! The bugs probably laugh themselves to death.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Oh, @worriedguy , sometimes your engineer nerdiness is so much like my Dad’s it makes me tear up a bit. Then I gag a little at the thought of all those dead bugs riding around on your head.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@JilltheTooth But he likes warm brie so he can’t be all that bad.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@worriedguy I have no words. You know that I find your nerdiness beyond endearing, but that is pretty amazing. And a little bit gross. lol.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I gotta tell you, it works! Deer flies and horse flies are caught immediately . I can walk in the woods and it gets them as soon as they try to bother me.
Here’s something even geekier! I used to arrange the strip so it stick up in the air like an Indian feather and waved around a bit when I walked. That worked great but the ribbing I got from the neighbors was not worth the extra deer flies I caught.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Oh, almost forgot. The buzzing they make when stuck can be a little disconcerting. You can feel the 100–150 Hz vibration if the hat is on really tight. Music to my ears.

I can post a picture of it so you get the idea.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@worriedguy The thing with the feather makes sense. Most insects track the CO2, which would be above the head. (Whose the nerd now)

JilltheTooth's avatar

I am so loving the turn this thread has taken!

LuckyGuy's avatar

<—- Here’s a picture of the hat today. 11 deer flies so far! Nice! Lunch!

Notice I did not include a picture of myself wearing it! That would be more embarrassing than Weinergate!

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

LOL Oh my gosh, that made my day! @worriedguy, you are my hero. :)

gasman's avatar

No, their nervous systems are far too primitive for them to detect “fear” (or any kind of emotions) in a human subject. The fearful person, however, behaves differently (more prone to sudden movements, swatting motions, etc.) in a way that the bug may interpret as a threat, provoking its defensive behavior. A bee is more likely to sting if you swat at it, even if you’re just flailing your arms to keep it away. In addition, sweating or hyperventilation may increase the chemical signals to trigger aggressive behaviors in the bugs.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@gasman ; Bugs probably can sense fear as humans exude very specific pheromones related to various kinds of emotional states. The sense they use is the buggy equivalent to smell. No higher brain function needed, there.

gasman's avatar

I’ll have to concede that there’s some evidence for “fear pheromones” emitted by humans. I don’t think it’s a slam-dunk conclusion, however, that bugs can detect this (though it’s known that gypsy moths can detect just a few molecules of sex pheromones with their very sensitive antennae) or that bugs behave any differently based strictly on your state of mind.

I think the belief that bugs “know” you’re scared is largely (if not entirely) unfounded superstition, for reasons I gave earlier.

Hibernate's avatar

It’s about pheromones. If you are scared of something the bug can sense it. That’s why most people get attacked by bees. If you just let it be it won’t attack but if you feel fear than act all crazy you’ll get attacked.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Yeah, I don’t think so. But you saw the pic I posted on FB right, of the thing on my wall? ya.

Brian1946's avatar

That is one fly hat, worriedguy! ;-p

JilltheTooth's avatar

Well, @worriedguy , you win Neffie’s bug thread. The hat is Just. Too. Fabulous.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I officially ended the day with 18 of the little buggers. Not a bad haul.
I’ll change the strip tomorrow morning and it’ll be good for another day of outdoor activity.

sahID's avatar

A distinction needs to be made between the simpler, nonsocial insects (gnats, flies, etc) and the more complex, social insects (bees, wasps, yellow jackets, etc). With the former, their smaller nervous systems are simply too limited to have much awareness of human emotions and reactions. So whatever pheromones a person might or might not be emitting simply does not register with them.

With bees and their kin, human feelings definitely do register with their brains, and they react accordingly. I have seen this in action many times over time, going in both directions. Let a person react with fear and they instantly turn defensive, which is when people get stung.

However, remaining calm and relaxed around them puts them at ease. Through the years, I have encountered many people who literally can’t find enough bad to say about yellow jackets & how dangerous they are, except none of it is true. Indeed, remaining calm, accepting & friendly when they are around can be a rewarding experience, because they do have distinct personalities.

Thus there is no one definitive answer that applies to all bugs.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Calm, accepting and friendly? Their bugs, let’s smash them and move on.

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