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Pennsylvanians hate cockroaches. Here's what else we learned about household pests.

From mice to spiders to cockroaches, researchers sought to understand why pests elicit strong reactions in people and what the most common responses are.
Credit: WPMT

It's something every homeowner fears, more stress-inducing and harrowing than watching a horror movie or a spending a weekend with the in-laws. Pests infesting your carefully curated place of refuge are perhaps the most unwelcome guests, even surpassing your roommate's on-again, off-again boyfriend who always seems to be making a sandwich in your kitchen. 

From mice to bed bugs, commonly invasive animals and insects tend to elicit particularly strong emotions from the humans who stumble upon them. And even though "Spider-Man" is dominating the box office right now, most people don't think the insect that bit Peter Parker is either friendly or neighborly. 

The experts at Pest Strategies sought to find out exactly why these types of creatures frighten and disgust so many people. Are we scared of what pests can do to our belongings? Are they inherently displeasing to look at? Are we conditioned from all the movies and TV show scenes of people jumping on top of furniture to avoid an ant on the ground? 

Pest Strategies researchers had all these and more questions in mind when investigating different human responses to invasive critters. Plus, they even conducted Pennsylvania and state-specific research to identify which pests are the most disliked by respondents in different places. 

According to the Pest Strategies data, cockroaches are the most dreaded pest in the commonwealth and 33 other states. Pennsylvanians also said they prefer to crush a pest when they see it as opposed to spraying it with a chemical killer or capturing it and releasing it outside. 

Rodents like mice and rats were the second most disliked, and spiders clocked in at number three. Meanwhile, gnats and termites "were the least likely to elicit a strong emotional reaction" even though these critters can damage personal property and often require professional extermination services. 

Pest Strategies also asked its 3500 survey respondents how they first reacted to seeing a pest. The most amount of people said they simply "feel gross or grossed out" (21.5%). Other common responses were finding something to kill it with (16.7%) or running away (14.3%). Only a measly 3.8% of people said they would react with delight because, well, it takes a special kind of person to find a cockroach beautiful. 

While the researchers with Pest Strategies did not pinpoint any specific reasoning behind why pests cause humans to scream, spray, crush or run, their findings reveal one universal insight: every person's personal experiences with bugs and animals are different and contribute to their emotional responses. Chances are you probably won't welcome the sight of bees if you ran into a hive when you were five years old. 

Plus, geographic placement contributes to pest response. For example, researchers found survey respondents in Louisiana and Alaska are particularly averse to mosquitoes since they are more common in those states. 

The jury is still out on why Pennsylvanians specifically disprove of cockroaches, but quick research will tell you that a mixture of baking soda and sugar can be an effective at-home remedy for the creatures. However, if you're like survey respondents who prefer to run away when they see a pest, you can always ask someone to do the dirty work. Or move to a new house. Your choice. 

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