Understanding Apiphobia: The Fear of bees

Pinterest Hidden Image

The sweet buzz of bees evokes a range of human emotions from fascination to fear. However, if you suffer from Apiphobia – an intense fear of bees your reaction is much more than normal caution. Apiphobia (also called Melissophobia) can cause you to miss out on enjoyable activities that take place outdoors. In this article, I examine what apiphobia is, causes, symptoms and strategies to overcome it.

Lady contemplating the danger of bees - apiphobia.

It is common for beginning beekeepers to have worries over opening their hives for the first time. Perhaps, you are not a beekeeper but your fear of bees keeps you really appreciating our winged pollinators? No worries, these issues can be overcome.

What is “Apiphobia”?

Apiphobia, derived from the Greek word “Apis” meaning bee and “phobos” meaning fear. It refers to an irrational intense fear of bees.

This phobia is much more serious than a casual wariness around bees. It is a persistent and excessive fear that can trigger significant anxiety and distress.


Apiphobia is classified as a specific phobia. This type of anxiety disorder is characterized by an extreme and unreasonable fear of a particular object or situation. You can have a phobia or fear of many different things or situations.

As someone who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks – I can understand how upsetting a fear of bees could be. Most people are not beekeepers and don’t really understand bee behavior.

Bee Phobias are Not That Unusual

According to John Hopkins Medicine, phobias are very common. Over 19 million Americans suffer from one or more types of phobias. They may experience fear for several minutes or even have panic attacks.

As for bees, 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.

Yet, there is a difference between being cautious and feeling panic when you just see an insect 10 feet away.

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.

Causes of Apiphobia

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 identify honey bees, yellow jacket wasps, bumble bees, etc.

Honey bee and yellow jacket wasp both stinging insects image.

Killer Bee News & Media

Media reports about killer bees have created great public concern in some regions. 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 for tips on how to protect yourself and your family.

Symptoms of Bee Fear

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

  • 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 foraging 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? People miss out on family picnics or sporting events that they would otherwise-enjoy due to an over-riding concern that bees may be present.

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

Overcoming 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

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.

Exposure Therapy

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 – unless short term for high blood pressure or heat rate problems.

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.

Tips for Beekeepers and Bee Enthusiasts

Beekeeping can be a wonderful adventure. However, if you are struggling with apiphobia or even a mild fear of bees, it may seem impossible.

Here are some practical tips to help you gain confidence around bees – whether you are a new beekeeper or any bee enthusiast.


What are the symptoms of apiphobia?

Symptoms of apiphobia vary from individual to individual but they may include: sweating, panic, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing and even fainting.

How common is apiphobia?

Apiphobia is a specific phobia and is fairly common. The degree of bee fear experienced varies from one individual to another.

How do I get rid of apiphobia?

One of the easiest ways to less mild apiphobia is exposure therapy – it involves safe exposure to areas that contain the things you fear (bees). Walking through the bee garden or standing near working bees (calm, still and a respectable distance away) should help fear lessen over time.

A Final Word

Whether you are just a bit anxious around bees or suffer from true apiphobia – things can get better. Talk with your physician about possible treatment. Educate yourself, practice patience, and work to transform fear into fascination and appreciation for our vital pollinators.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *