I have lost track of the number of times somebody has invited me and my daughters to join them at our local nature museum. It’s a beautiful place, I’m told. It has a featured exhibit my girls would love, I’m told. It’s one of those butterfly rooms, where you can stick out your hands and butterflies will land all over you.
It is the second most terrifying sounding place I can possibly imagine.
I suffer, and yes, I’d say I DO suffer, from lepidopteraphobia. That’s the fear of butterflies and moths.
That’s right, I’m afraid of butterflies.
People tend to find this hilarious. I mean, butterflies? Those pretty, harmless creatures that weigh less than a paper clip?
Yes, them. Don’t get me wrong- I can see that they’re beautiful. I can appreciate that they’re beautiful. I can see one flying around the flowers, over there away from me, and think what a lovely afternoon it is and how nice it is to be outside. But if it starts coming near me, we’re going to have a problem.
It has something to do with the flapping. The way they flap, bouncing around erratically in the air. It’s unpredictable. It’s… panic inducing. For me, anyway. I try to stay calm and enjoy the loveliness of a beautiful butterfly when they’re around, but the fact is I’m on edge, waiting for the moment I’m going to duck because the thing flies brainlessly towards my face.
I have been known to have a panic attack because of moths in my condo building’s entranceway.
I don’t know when exactly I started being frightened of butterflies. I can remember being a child, and collecting monarch caterpillars from the milkweed near our house, watching the caterpillars grow and build their cocoons, and I remember being excited as we released the fully fledged butterflies into the wild.
I don’t remember running screaming from a butterfly as a child, but it’s definitely happened in the years since. It is really hard to play it off like you thought a butterfly was a wasp. Nobody mistakes butterflies for wasps. I am much calmer and more collected if there’s a wasp in my house than if there’s a butterfly in my yard.
Yes, it’s absolutely irrational, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. The feelings of terror and panic I get from being trapped near a butterfly are on par with my fear of high open places- particularly Ferris Wheels- and spiders. At least with my fear of spiders and heights, people treat me like I’m just another person with another common fear.
The most terrifying place I can imagine is a ferris wheel, only when you’re starting to go us, you realize there’s a spider in the seat with you, and then there are also butterflies.
I can tell you exactly what would happen if I was at the top of a Ferris Wheel, with a spider and a butterfly.
First I would scream. Then I would cry.
But the thing that would send me falling through the air to my death would be the butterfly, flapping its wings at me. And as truly, honestly scared as I’d be, ricochetting off the beams of the Ferris Wheel, swatting invisible spiders off my arms and waving invisible butterflies from my face, I would be thinking the exact same thing about myself you no doubt would-
“Who the hell is afraid of BUTTERFLIES?”
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