If you or a member of your family have a strong fear of bees, you are not alone. Many people suffer from an heighten anxiety when it comes to stinging insects. This can be especially troubling if you are someone who enjoys being outdoors. And, if you have aspirations of having a hive of your own, this condition must be dealt with quickly. Developing a better understanding of insects may help you become less afraid.
Normal Fear Reaction to Stinging Insects
All living things share a place in the world – even insects. We share the environment with many flying insects, birds etc. It is only natural that we will come into close contact on occasion.
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And, many of us will remember the childhood experience of a sting. Perhaps that is where our anxiety about bees began. It’s okay to be a little afraid-caution is a good thing. This is part of our survival instinct.
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 one 6 feet away.
If the mere thought of a bee gives you an elevated heart rate and stress, you may have apiphobia. Do not be ashamed of your anxiety, getting to understand insects better may be of some help.
Why a Fear of Bees is Called Apiphobia
Apiphobia (the term Melissophobia is also used) describes an irrational fear of bees. Why is this big word used? The answer dates back to the origin of the term. The Greek word “Apis” meaning bee and the Greek word “phobos” are combined.
Most people do not intentionally run towards bee infested areas. But, this condition can be a true disorder if it affects your lifestyle in a big way. Very strong emotional reactions when something buzzes near you may be signs of apiphobia.
But remember, it is common sense to be concerned with preventing stings. Stings hurt. Few folks intentionally go towards bees. Well, we beekeepers do, but we are a strange group.
Apiphobia Can Cause One to Stay Inside
Some of the symptoms of Apiphobia:
- just thinking about bees causes anxiety
- having one in the same room with you causes panic
- 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. Why does this matter?
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.
Insects do love to attend picnics – especially in late Summer. They are attracted to sweet drinks and food available at these events. Yellow Jackets can be especially troublesome at outdoor food events.
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. Avoid these places that may create negative experiences.
Be cautious of a bees nest under picnic tables or benches and watch out for those that nest in the ground. But, this doesn’t mean you have to stay inside all Summer.
What Causes Someone to Develop a Fear of Bees?
An intense fear of honey bees can present itself due to several factors. We are all different with unique personalities and reactions. And, our genes and experiences affect our outlook on life in general.
Genetics & Learned Behavior Bee Phobias
Is this condition genetic? Is someone more likely to develop a severe concern over buzzing insects if their parents have it? Perhaps, this is so. But, there is no strong research to confirm this to be a factor.
Learned phobias definitely do affect the reaction of others. If a parent runs screaming from every flying insect, small children often mimic the behavior.
When Mom or Dad “loses it” the kids certainly feel it is something to worry about. Fear learned in childhood can develop into panic attacks later in life.
Well Meaning Adults Teach Children to Be Afraid
If you are a caregiver for children, it is your job to protect them. 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. By having excessive reactions to a foraging honey bee, the adults encourage the child to be afraid.
This create fear and anxiety in small children whenever they come into an area with a bee. We certainly don’t want toddlers to be trying to catch any with their bare hands. However, older children can be taught to respectfully observe working insects.
Unless the child has an allergy to venom, watching them honey bees work can be a very educational. Even young children can learn to recognize honey bees, bumble bees or wasps.
Killer Bee News Stories Create Fear
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.
Is Being Afraid of Bees and Wasps Irrational?
Being afraid of stinging insects is a very reasonable emotion. Receiving many stings can cause great harm and even death.
A few stings will only cause pain and discomfort unless you are allergic to venom. With proper bee sting treatment, you should recover fully in a couple of days. Still, it is natural to want to protect your body from harm even when it is not a life-threatening event.
Overcoming Your Fear
The more you know about these beneficial insects, the less chance you have of getting stung. Learn to recognize wasps and various bees. Know how to identify their nests.
Give them a wide berth as you travel by. If you see a beehive nearby, stay a respectable distance away. They are unlikely to bother you unless they feel threatened.
Knowledge is power. When you understand more about the insects you encounter outside, the chances of stings decreases. This allows you to enjoy being outdoors and still feel comfortable.
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 flowers bees love to visit. 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.
Overcoming Bee Anxiety
For those of you with a severe bee phobia, you may need to seek professional help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps many people cope with these feelings.
You may never have a desire to become a beekeeper. But, who knows – it might be something you could consider someday with a good mentor. Regardless, overcoming some of your phobia will enhance your enjoyment of outdoor living.
And, with some time and practice, who knows – a friend may someday feel comfortable giving you a bee themed gift?
For those of you who are considering beekeeping and feel a few nerves coming on, don’t panic. With time, experience and the proper beekeeping clothing the anxiety lessens over time.