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What is Apiphobia?

A queen bee surrounded by attendants.
Apiphobia is a fear of bees.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 December 2014
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Apiphobia is the irrational fear of bees or being stung by bees and it is related to the phobia called spheksophobia, the fear of wasps. This fear may develop in many ways, and it is called irrational because honeybees seldom sting except in last defense. When a honeybee stings it dies, and therefore, these bees will usually not sting, though they can naturally be curious and fly around people, and if extremely threatened, they may resort to this final attack.

Bee stings are painful, and it’s no wonder why people would develop apiphobia if they have encountered a sting in the past. It often doesn’t matter if the sting occurs from a honeybee or a wasp. A sting from either one may be responsible for developing apiphobia. Another reason development of this fear occurs when people have an allergic reaction to a bee sting. Though a severe allergy usually doesn’t develop until a person has been stung twice, the fear of anaphylactic shock may drive some people to be very afraid of all bees and wasps.

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Unfortunately, apiphobia is a fear that can be inflated by public representation of bees. In particular, news coverage of “killer bees” or Africanized bees has given the honeybee a terrible and undeserved reputation. The fact that the human race relies on honeybees to pollinate so many edible plants gets lost in headlines about the spread of killer bees that are said to be able to sting people to death in short periods of time. Inflated fear of bees can lead to indifference about protecting this most vital of species, and those confronted with a honeybee, instead of simply walking away from it, may decide it needs to be killed instead.

Reactions when people suffer from true apiphobia can vary. Some people will have a fight reaction, striking out at the bee and killing it if they can. Others are so terrified of these creatures that they won’t spend time anywhere outdoors where bees frequent. When confronted with a bee, they might scream, have a panic attack, have high respiration or heart rate, and sweat profusely. Since this fear is unreasonable, it is often difficult to convince the apiphobic person to simply walk away from the bee, which is usually the best way to avoid a painful bee encounter.

Apiphobia is often a common childhood fear, and there are methods with therapy to help children recover from this phobia. These can include desensitization methods that help gradually introduce children to images and then actual bees in order to help them recover. Education regarding bees may be helpful too, but is usually undertaken when some degree of control over the fear can be exercised.

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