Fear of Bees: How to Overcome Apiphobia

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If you or a member of your family have an intense fear of bees, you are not alone. Many people suffer from an heighten anxiety when it comes to stinging insects. But, if you experience excessive anxiety or worry you may have Apiphobia (also called Melissophobia). This can be especially troubling if you are someone who enjoys being outdoors. But there are things you can do to help overcome some of your concerns.

Bee Phobias are Not That Unusual

Fearful macro shot of a honey bee head image.

Many of us will remember the childhood experience of a sting. Maybe you ran through bee covered clover barefoot (like me) and that was your first introduction to a honey bee? Hopefully, you had some essential oils for bee sting relief or similar aid to get you through it.

For some of us, that is where our anxiety about bees begins. But, developing a better understanding of insects like bees – may help you become less afraid. Honey bees only sting for a reason.

It’s okay to be a little afraid-caution is a good thing. Caution allows you to respect the space of bees and wasps and reduces the chance of stings.

Still, there is a difference between being scared of getting stung vs feeling panic when you just see an insect 6 feet away.

If the mere thought of a bee gives you an elevated heart rate and stress, you may have a real phobia of bees called “apiphobia”. Do not be ashamed of your anxiety, we all have struggles to overcome.

What is “Apiphobia”?

As we explore the symptoms, causes and possible treatments for a fear of bees, let us investigate the big word. Apiphobia (also called Melissophobia) describes an irrational fear of bees.

Where did this term come from? The answer dates back to ancient Greek. The Greek word “Apis” meaning bee and the Greek word “phobos” are combined.

Very strong emotional reactions when you even think about going outside where a bee might appear may be a sign of apiphobia.

This condition can be a true disorder if it affects your lifestyle in a big way. But remember, it is common sense to be concerned with preventing stings.

Bee stings hurt. Few folks intentionally go towards bees. Well, we beekeepers do, but we are a strange group.

Symptoms

The following are a few symptoms that someone with a true fear of bees may experience:

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  • just thinking about bees causes high anxiety
  • sweating heavily, shortness of breath, nausea or rapid heartrate when bees are near
  • having one in the same room with you causes a panic attack
  • fainting
  • avoidance of situations where you think bees will be present

If seeing a calm honey bee gathering nectar from a nearby flower causes your heart to race, you may be experiencing Apiphobia. You are having a unrealistic phobic reaction to an insect that is taking no notice of you.

Physical symptoms can occur as with any type of phobia. Worry, sweating or feelings of a panic attack are common for some.

Does your worry about bees cause you to stay home? Some people miss out on family picnics and don’t go to sporting events that they would otherwise enjoy.

Their over-riding concern that stinging insects will be present destroys their chance of having a good time.

Honey bee and yellow jacket wasp both stinging insects image.

Causes of Fear of Bees Phobias

We are all different with unique personalities and reactions. And, our genes and experiences affect our outlook on life in general. But, bee phobias can be learned too.

  • socially conditioned responses
  • learned behavior
  • media, movies, TV

Social Responses

Is this condition genetic? Is someone more likely to develop a severe concern over buzzing insects if their parents have it? There is no strong research to confirm this to be a factor.

But, this fear of bees can be increased due to the reactions of others. If a parent or sibling runs screaming from every flying insect, small children often mimic the behavior.

Learned Behavior

If you are a caregiver for children, you want to do everything in your power to prevent their pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, this leads some adults to teach children to be afraid of bees.

Unless the child has an allergy to venom, allowing them to watch honey bees work can be very educational. Even young children can learn to recognize honey bees, bumble bees or wasps.

Killer Bee News & TV

Media reports about killer bees have created great public concern in some regions. These ” Killer Bees” are actually a hybrid. They are offspring of a more defensive race from Africa cross-bred with our honey bees.

Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) are a real problem in some southern areas of the US. They are dangerously defensive of their nest area. However, they are not the killers of the horror movies.

If you live in an area that has AHB, contact your state agriculture department. This is the best source of information on how to protect yourself and your family.

Boy showing no fear as he watches a honey bee image.

Overcoming and Treating Apiphobia

There are several strategies used to help people deal with a fear of bees.

  • learn more about bees and which ones sting
  • practice exposure therapy
  • seek professional help – doctor/mental health professional
  • relaxation techniques

Knowledge is power. When you understand more about the insects you encounter outside, the chances of stings decreases.

Learn About Bees & Wasps

Learn to recognize wasps and various bees. Know how to identify bees and wasp nests most do not attack unless they are provoked. They have better things to do than chase you.

If you see a beehive nearby, stay a respectable distance away. They are unlikely to bother you unless they feel threatened. But, they will defend their hive.

Exposure Therapy to Your Phobia

Another method of dealing with your fear is exposure therapy. Instead of running- screaming with fear the next time you see a honey bee, stand still and watch.

Insects are very industrious and fun to watch. Try sitting in a chair near some perennial flowers bees love to visit or your annual flower garden. In time, you will be able to move closer-but still remain a respectful distance away.

Avoid swatting. This can be viewed as an aggressive reaction and may cause the insects to want to retaliate. If you begin to feel nervous or upset, get up and walk away.

Professional Help

For those of you with a severe bee phobia, you may need to seek help from a medical professional. They can give you guidance on how to best deal with the symptoms.

Medications are not normally used to treat bee phobias – unless short term for high blood pressure or heat rate problems.

But, yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques can provide some cooling vibes. And, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps many people cope with these feelings or worry.

Is Being Afraid of Bees and Wasps Irrational?

Not at all. Many people have fears or phobias about certain things or situations. In fact, about 12.5 % of the adults in the U.S. experience a specific phobia at some point.

To avoid some of the worry, learn where bees and wasps tend to congregate. Stay away from park trash cans and other high risk areas during picnics. Yellow jackets are especially bad in these areas.

Avoid these places that may create negative experiences. But, this doesn’t mean you have to stay inside all Summer.

For most of us, a sting isn’t the end of the world. With proper bee sting treatment, you should recover fully in a couple of days.

You may never have a desire to become a beekeeper – but, who knows? Regardless, overcoming some of your fear of bees will enhance your daily life.

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