Moths are fascinating creatures, but they can evoke fear in some people. In the film, The Silence Of The Lambs, FBI agent Clarice Starling found a moth pupa in the throat of a serial killer’s victim. Since then, the insect has taken on a more sinister image. Fear of moths is known as Mottephobia.
Why Do People Fear Moths?
In many parts of the world, moths are considered pests. They are known as an invasive species, and they do great damage to crops and woodlands. Some moths also enjoy feasting on the fibers in human clothing. They especially enjoy silk and wool. For this reason, many people use mothballs and cedar to repel moths in places where they store their clothes.
Although moths have a reputation for eating and ruining our clothes, they have unique feeding habits that may seem frightening to some. In fact, many fully grown moths do not eat at all, and many types of moths do not have mouths. One example of this moth type is the Luna moth. Some moths seek out only nectar to drink.
Some people love butterflies and don’t really fear other insects, and yet they have a phobia about moths. They find them to be dirty and repulsive, and they are terrified when one enters the room with its wings flapping fiercely. Many people with this phobia cannot stay in a room where a moth is present.
In some areas where moths are common, phobic men, women, and children will avoid areas where they are known to gather.
Why Does Mottephobia Begin?
People with this phobia often report some traumatic memories involving moths. For example, they may have entered a public area such as a restroom in a park, only to find a huge cluster of moths against the wall. The moths may have appeared as a dark and quivering mass, terrifying the person and triggering their mottephobia.
Others developed their fear of moths in childhood. Some people have memories of their older siblings teasing them with moths, and bring them very close to their faces. They have vivid flashbacks of the beating wings and squirming bodies of captured moths.
Moths often swarm around outdoor lights, and they can seem menacing to the people who fear them. Moths have a special type of vision that makes their eyes adjust to the light levels they perceive. When they spend time around bright light, readjusting to darkness can render them temporarily blind. They may linger around lights in order to maintain their vision. It can be dangerous for them to “fly blind” back into the darkness.
Metamorphosis Can Frighten Those Who Fear Moths
The life cycle of a moth is divided into four distinct stages. From embryo to larva to pupa to imago…the moth undergoes amazing transformations. The protective cocoon that shrouds the moth as it becomes pupa is a source of unease in phobic persons. While the cocoon itself is a defense against predators, the sight of the covering can trigger fear in Mottephobics.
One possible reason why the cocoon is so frightening is the film, The Silence Of The Lambs. In this film, a government agent played by actress Jodie Foster finds a pupa in the throat of a murder victim. Since this film was filled with dark imagery and suspense, the moth became a symbol of horror and perversion. The link between the dark deeds of Jame Gumb, a twisted serial killer and the moth itself, can trigger Mottephobia in some who watch the film.
In The Silence Of The Lambs, Jame Gumb chose a Death’s Head moth to represent his own desire for transformation. The producers of the film chose to place an image of the moth over Jodie Foster’s mouth for ads and posters used for promotion.
Symptoms Of Fear Of Moths
Terror, nervousness, dizziness, and heart palpitations are some of the common symptoms of Mottephobia. Some people will experience true panic attacks when they come in contact with moths. Many people who fear moths scream when one seems to appear out of nowhere. They may cry or feel nauseous during and after the encounter.
Treatment Of Fear Of Moths
Therapy is the best solution for a person who lives with this phobia. Talking to a sensitive, qualified mental health care professional will help to release anxiety and gain perspective. Cognitive therapy and tapping therapy have been known to work with varying degrees of success.
Hynotherapy is another, alternative option for phobia treatment. Its success rate depends on the patient’s openness to suggestion.