Apiphobia - Fear Of Bees

The fear of bees is also called Apiphobia.  But what causes fear of bees?  Here, we are going to look at the causes and and how to overcome apiphobia, with practical tips and information I hope you will find helpful.

Fear of bees and the child

I find in most cases, the fear of bees (apiphobia) has its routes in childhood experience.  Sometimes, this fear is irrational, but on other occasions, an event has triggered this fear, so that a general apiphobia develops and continues into adult life.

Causes of fear of bees include:

  • being taught, especially by adults, to fear bees, and in particular, there being a very major (even exaggerated) emphasis on the dangers of being stung. For instance, if your parents or teachers panicked whenever a bee happened to fly by, and if they were very protective toward you, this may have amplified your fear of danger.  With such strong social conditioning, you may develop apiphobia (even if you have never been stung).

  • children can sometimes learn that specific behaviours help them to gain attention.  For example, a child may learn that by creating a fuss when bees are seen nearby will ensure a parental reaction.  In adulthood, this becomes an irrational fear of bees, but the roots of it have long been forgotten.

  • being stung as a child, and remembering the event, as well as attaching a very upsetting or distressing memory to the event.  In one sense, this fear is rational, because the mind has learned that a bee sting could be painful.  On the other hand, the mind may irrationally exaggerate the potential likelihood and regularity of being stung in the future.

  • witnessing another person being stung, and finding this distressing, could similarily cause a justified fear of bee stings, but an exaggerated view of the general threat.

So in most situations - and especially in adulthood, is the fear of bees irrational?

In addition to the above explanations as to why people fear bees, there are other factors, and it could be said that these cause an irrational fear of bees:

  • ignorance - misunderstandings about bees, and an assumption that all bees sting, are out to get humans, and are naturally very aggressive (all of which are untrue)

  • the media, exaggerating the threat of bee stings, with sensationalist language, such as "Bees in aggressive attack"

However, sometimes a fear of bees is justified, especially for those who have severe and life-threatening allergies to bee stings, but these cases are relatively rare, and sufferers usually carry an epi-pen.  Even here, however, it is worth noting that not all bees even possess a stinger!

How to overcome fear of bees

If it's a problem for you, then know that overcoming apiphobia is perfectly possible, and there are different means to do this.  The cure for your apiphobia may be different from some-one elses.

The approach you take will depend on you, and may include:

  • simply getting the facts and rationally letting go of your fear,

  • implementing practical tips,

  • self-counselling and therapy.

Here are my tips, covering each of these approaches:

Tips to overcome apiphobia

1. Try changing your focus:

When faced with difficult situations, many people focus on their feelings, such as fear or nervousness, rather than the task in hand or the next task or goal. For example, before giving a presentation to a group of people, they will focus on their nervousness rather than delivering the presentation content, and so these feelings become more intense.

It is actually better to distract oneself, by focusing on the task in hand, rather than how you are feeling.

So if you have apiphobia, then focusing on your feelings of fear whenever you see a bee, is the last thing you want to do. Try to take a couple of deep breaths. Divert your attention away from the bee if possible, perhaps to the last task you were engaged in, or instead of looking at the bee, study the flower next to it.  Then move further away as calmly as you can.

2. Put your fears in perspective, or try positive thinking:

  • Remember, there are many times you will have been close to bees without even realising it, and yet they have not harmed you.  For example, perhaps you walked past a public garden,  hanging baskets, or planted containers.  These are all places where bees may be performing their all important role of pollinating plants.  The fact is, most bees do not sting, they are largely unnoticed, and they are not out to sting you!

  • Remember the importance of bees when you eat a bowl of strawberries, an apple or a blueberry muffin!

  • Unless you have a severe allergy, even if you were stung, the worst that would happen would be temporary pain and a swelling.  It would not be pleasant, but could you handle it?  In comparison with say, childbirth, surely a bee sting is a walk in the park!

  • To put the threat of bee stings in perspective, think back to your childhood. You were more likely to get hit by your sibling or in the school playground, or to fall over or bump yourself than to get stung! Even as an adult, the amount of times you cut your finger or bump your head in a year probably exceeds the number of times you are likely to be stung.

It may help you to understand the reasons why insects sting or bite.  The book 'Sting' aims to explain all this.

3. Be practical:

  • Most people will soon recover from a bee sting (see my page about treating bee stings ).
    However, if you are one of the rare and unfortunate people for whom one single bee sting could be fatal, then ensure you carry your Epi-pen with you.  Knowing you have your Epi-pen will provide reassurance.

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Inform others of your allergy, and about your Epi-pen.  If necessary, carry a charm, like this one left.

  • If you are fearful because you have found a bees nest, firstly, rest assured there is rarely anything to fear. Keep pets and children away from the area, and allow the bees to go about their business. If it is absolutely essential, call a beekeeper for help, or see my page about bee removal.
  • Do not exaggerate the dangers to your child - instead, set a positive example, but explain that accidents can happen.  Protect children from stings in the first place with a repellent - there are wearable products available, such as these below:
  • Site outdoor repellents around eating and play areas.
  • There are DEET-free repellents:

With the best will in the world, accidents can happen, and children and toddlers can be stung - I know this - I was stung by a bumblebee when I was a toddler (I had wanted to pick up this cuddly-looking creature, but being a toddler, I was rather clumsy).  But what is important is how the incident is dealt with.  Despite being stung as a child, here I am, trying to do my bit for bees!

4. Get the facts about apiphobia and bees

Fears can be greatly allayed when we know the truth, so that we can put everything in perspective. Phantoms are scary until we realise they are only phantoms. So what are the facts?  Knowing more about bees and the threat of stings, may help allay your fears:

  • Bees rarely sting, and only do so if afraid or provoked (for example, by being trodden on). Many bees actually cannot sting. For instance, males do not sting, and many solitary bees (by far the biggest group of bee species) do not sting either.

  • Of the remaining types of bees, bumblebees are generally very docile. Leave them alone to do their thing, and they won’t disturb you - you probably pass them undisturbed and without even realizing it, when you walk by public planting schemes, pots of plants, hanging baskets, and even your own garden.

  • Honey bees may sting if their honey stores are threatened. Are you likely to be wandering around a bee hive in the near future? If not, you are unlikely to be stung. Honey bee swarms are generally docile as long as you keep out of the way. Call a beekeeper if you need help to remove a swarm (or a nest for that matter).
    More more information, see my page: do all bees sting?

  • Sensationalist publicity about Killer Bees (specifically, Africanized Bees), has not helped the situation. Within the huge population of the USA, only one or two deaths by stings occur every year. But from some reports you’d think they were very common - in fact, in the USA, you are more likley to be killed by lightning strike, road traffic, or at the hands of another human than be killed by bee stings (- see more facts and the references here - opens a new window).
    This irresponsible reporting is very unhelpful given the dire situation facing bee populations (and lack of pollination means rising food prices, duller gardens and countryside, as well as biodiversity loss). It can encourage people to behave irrationally, demanding bees (including wild bees) be exterminated, and can result in the unnecessary killing of bees.

  • Again, check my bee sting facts. You’ll see that in the USA as an example, you are more likely to die at the hands of another human than to die from bee stings. In addition, you would need to be stung many, many times in order to die of such an event, unless of course, you happen to have an allergy. If this is the reason for your Apiphobia, then be prepared!

    Please remember, bees perform an absolutely vital role in the eco-system, and are truly amazing creatures. Even their by-products are sometimes used in medicines and health treatments that benefit humans.

5. Apiphobia therapy

Since Apiphobia is basically governed by the mind and thought processes, you may wish to think about hypnosis or self-hypnosis as a way to cure your apiphobia.

Did You Know?

Not all bees can sting!  Many bees (probably most) are fairly docile and harmless!

Read More

Bee sting facts

Did You Know?

More people are killed by lightning than bee stings!

Read more

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