Apiphobia - Fear Of Bees

The fear of bees is also called Apiphobia (or sometimes 'melissophobia' (from Greek melissa meaning "honeybee").  

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.

Causes of apiphobia

I find in most cases, the fear of bees (apiphobia) has its origin 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:

  • Social conditioning
    Being taught whilst young to fear bees, sometimes with an exaggerated emphasis on the dangers of being stung.
    This could occur, for instance, if parents or teachers panic whenever a bee happens to fly by.  Being extremely protective even in the presence of bees, may amplify the fear of danger, such that the child learns 'bees are dangerous'.  

  • Learned behaviour to generate response
    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 might develop into an irrational fear of bees, but the roots of it have long been forgotten.

  • Stinging incident
    Being stung as a child, and remembering the event, as well as attaching a very upsetting or distressing memory to the event.  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
    Witnessing another person being stung, and finding this distressing, could similarly cause a justified fear of bee stings, but an exaggerated view of the general threat.

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.  Each person's cure for your apiphobia may be different from some-one else's.

The approach taken may include:

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

  • implementing practical tips,

  • self-counselling and therapy.

  • counselling or other assistance from a qualified professional.

Here are my tips, covering each of these approaches:

Tips to overcome apiphobia

1. Changing 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 we are feeling!

So in the case of apiphobia, focusing on feelings of fear whenever a bee is near, is unhelpful. In such cases, the following steps can be taken:

  • Take a couple of deep breaths. 
  • Divert the attention away from the bee if possible, perhaps to the previous task, or 
  • instead of looking at the bee, turn the head away and look at something else. 
  • Then move further away as calmly as possible.

2. Put fears in perspective, or try positive thinking

  • It can be useful to remember there are many times when we are, and have been close to bees without even realising it, and yet they have not harmed anyone!  For example, when walking by a public garden or planted containers.  These are all places where bees may be performing their all important role of pollinating plants, they are largely unnoticed, and are not out to sting humans.  
  • The fact is, many bees do not, or rarely sting unless they are specifically threatened, and males do not possess stingers.

  • If stung, the worst that would happen in most cases would be temporary pain and a swelling (see treating bee stings).  It would not be pleasant, but most people can handle it.

    In comparison with say, childbirth, surely a bee sting is a walk in the park!  (That said, a sting in a sensitive area such as around the eye or nostril may need medical assistance, especially where children or vulnerable persons are concerned, or in the case of allergy).

  • Remembering the importance of bees, for example, when eating a bowl of strawberries, an apple or a blueberry muffin!

  • To put the threat of bee stings in perspective, it is worth thinking back to the many bumps, scrapes and bruises versus the number of stings during childhood. For most people, it's likely the bumps and scrapes happened more frequently than bee stings - if the bee sting happened at all!

3. Therapy
Since Apiphobia is basically a concern of the mind and thought processes, some form of therapy may assist, such as hypnosis.  

If You Have Apiphobia, Be Practical

  • Most people will soon recover from a bee sting.  

    However, if you are one of the rare and unfortunate people for whom one single bee sting could be fatal due to severe allergy, then ensure you carry your Epi-pen with you.  Knowing you have your Epi-pen will provide reassurance.  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.  Protect children from stings in the first place with a repellent.

    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 bumble bee when I was a toddler.  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!

  • Prevent bee stings.  For example, use outdoor repellents around eating and play areas, and ensure the feet of children are fully covered on flowered lawns. 

Bee sting reactions
A description of possible reactions and what to do

Did You Know?

More people are killed by lightning than bee stings!  Read:

Bee Sting Facts

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