Don’t trip! You just have Trypophobia

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4 min readOct 23, 2021


trees with thousands of holes with acorns stuffed in them
An acorn woodpecker granary tree. Photo courtesy of Lorraine Bruno

Do you get an uncomfortable, maybe even a queasy feeling, whenever you see clusters of small holes or bumps? You may have trypophobia, a.k.a the fear or aversion of seeing such sights! Some of these images may be triggering to some, but they’re just part of nature. Let’s get into it.

Fish Scales and Eggs

Left: Closeup of rainbow trout scales. Credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS. Right: Winter-run salmon eggs raised at Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery. Credit: Laura Mahoney/USFWS

Did you know fish scales have rings, called annuli, that can indicate the age of the fish? Scales protect fish, much like a suit of armor, and have a slimy covering of mucus which helps with swimming swiftly through water. One day, these googly-eyed salmon eggs at the Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery in California, will hatch and be released in the Sacramento River system. Not too bad right? We’ll keep going…

Snake Shed? Don’t Mind if We Do.

Left: Topside of a plains garter snake shedding. Right: Bottom of a plains garter snake shedding. Credit: Molly Stoddard/USFWS

Scaly holes are a new concept. Behold, a plains garter snake shedding. Like humans shed millions of skin layers every day, snakes go through a process called ecdysis, where they shed their skin in large, visible pieces. The two clear, circular scales covered the eyes. You’re welcome.


Left: Bleeding tooth fungus (Hydnellum peckii). Credit: J.Mills/NPS. Right: American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) seed pod. Credit: USFWS

The horror…except not really. The bleeding tooth fungus, despite its disconcerting name, is not actually bleeding. In moist conditions, this fungus secretes a red-colored sap liquid, which is forced out through the mushroom by excess absorption of water.

While that visual may make you feel a little squeamish, does the photo on the right trouble you? The American lotus is native to eastern and central North America. While their flowers are gorg, their seed pods on the other hand can be slightly… unsettling.

Need a Breather? Here’s a ‘Whale’ness Break.

close up of a whale with lice and barnacles on face
Gray whale with barnacles and whale lice. Credit: Peter Pearsall/USFWS

Here we have a gray whale with barnacles and whale lice, yum! As the whale grows, the barnacle clusters grow too, gradually forming large, solid white colonies. When barnacles die off, they leave unique scar patterns that can be used to identify individual gray whales. Additionally, whale lice hitch a ride by attaching to the host using hooked legs called “dactyli,” and they feed on damaged tissue which can be beneficial to whales. Who would have thought a lice infestation wouldn’t be such a bad thing…

Crayfish and Frog Eggs

Left: These crayfish were found in the raceways at Neosho National Fish Hatchery in Minnesota. Right: Frog eggs being held in a hand. Credit: USFWS

Mounds of eggs for everyone! These female crayfish have reached the ever endearing “berried” stage a.k.a carrying fertilized eggs under their tail. And then we we have frog eggs — the jelly consistency helps keep the eggs moist. How are we feeling?

Does this Bug You?

Left: Wolf spider with hatched young. Credit: Megan Seymour/USFWS. Right: Giant water bug with eggs. Source: Josh More (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Ah yes, we’ve reached the boss mode of trypophobia triggers. To the left, we have dozens of newly hatched wolf spider babies (the orange dots) hitching a ride on mom’s back. She will continue to carry the baby spiders for a couple of weeks until they are ready leave. To the right, we have a male giant water bug with his precious egg cargo. How did they get there, you ask? Well, after mating, the female giant water bug simply glues her 150 (or more) eggs on her male partner’s back. Pretty casual first date.

It’s the Blank Stare for Me

Acorn woodpeckers drill thousands of holes in dead trees to make their granaries. Photo courtesy of Lorraine Bruno

And there we have it, the culprit who led us down this trypophobic train — the acorn woodpecker and their granary tree. A typical granary tree usually contains hundreds or even thousands of acorns, which is why this bird is deemed meal prepper champion of the year, as well as creator of ultimate nightmare fuel.

Nothing like a little nature trypophobia to keep the blood pumping. So, if you have this phobia, don’t trip (the author does, too). Thanks for hole-ding out.

Author: Rebecca Fabbri, digital strategist, California-Great Basin Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service



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