The fear of bees is called apiphobia, and it is one of the most common phobias regarding insects and animals. A phobia is an intense, irrational, and specific fear of something that is probably not actually dangerous.
People are afraid of bees for many reasons, including their stingers and the way that they move. There are some ways to get over apiphobia, including exposure therapy and mindfulness. Almost 10% of U.S. adults have specific phobias, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Read on to learn more about phobias in general and apiphobia specifically, including its symptoms, causes, and things that help with it.
What is a Phobia?
A specific phobia is when someone is intensely afraid of something that is unlikely to actually be dangerous to them. It can also be a very exaggerated response to something that may be a little dangerous, but not very dangerous.
For example, someone might be irrationally terrified of being stung by a bee, even though most bees rarely sting unless threatened and most bee stings really do not hurt that much. Or, someone might just be afraid of being around bees, despite the fact that they pose no real threat to humans.
Typically, in order to be diagnosed with a phobia, your symptoms must cause intense distress and interfere with your work, social life, or general daily life. Often, phobias cause avoidance, which occurs when someone avoids certain situations or events because they are afraid of something.
An example of apiphobia would be someone that is unable to leave their house because they are afraid of being stung by a bee. Another example would be someone that loves working in nature, but chooses another career path because they are afraid of being around bees.
In specific phobias, even visual or audio representations of the object that someone is afraid of can trigger an anxiety response. If someone with apiphobia sees a movie about bees or reads about bees, they may become intensely anxious even though they are not even near a bee.
What are the Symptoms of Apiphobia?
Symptoms of specific phobias mostly appear when someone is exposed to the thing they are afraid of, or a representation of it. There are many symptoms of apiphobia, and the most common include panic attacks, avoidance, and anxiety.
The first symptom of apiphobia is simply an avoidance of bees. This might mean that someone refuses to go out into areas where there are many flowers and there may be bees, or it could be as severe as someone staying inside all day to avoid bees. This symptom can be very inhibiting for some people, and it’s important to treat apiphobia for this reason.
Avoidance can also come in the form of removing beehives from one’s property out of fear, or keeping one’s land free of flowers so that bees are not attracted to the area. While this is an effective way to avoid bees, it’s very detrimental to the environment to remove beehives and bee habitat because bees are important pollinators. Therefore, it’s important to treat apiphobia so that one can allow bees to exist without being terrified of them.
Another symptom of any specific phobia is panic attacks. These can occur when the person thinks about bees, sees a bee, or watches a movie or documentary about bees. Even reading about bees can trigger panic attacks in some people.
Panic attacks include both mental and physical symptoms of fear. A person can become overwhelmed by the feeling that they are losing control or in grave danger, and their body responds with physical reactions to this fear.
The symptoms of panic attacks include:
- The fear of losing control.
- The fear of death.
- A feeling of impending doom.
- Intense fear of having further panic attacks, leading to avoidance of triggers such as bees.
- Physical symptoms:
- Shaking or trembling.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Tingling in the arms, hands, legs, or feet.
- Chills or hot flashes.
- Sweating and clammy skin.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Chest pain.
- Stomach pain and nausea.
Apiphobia can also cause anxiety about seeing bees, being around bees, or even thinking about bees. This anxiety can occur at any time, and can be triggered by exposure to a bee or can be ongoing.
The symptoms of anxiety include:
- Getting very tired easily.
- Difficulty concentrating, blank feeling in the mind.
- Feeling restless and generally anxious.
- Being irritable, snapping at people or things when they don’t behave the way the person wants them to.
- Muscle tension and pain.
- Sleep problems, including nightmares, difficulty falling asleep, and difficulty staying asleep.
What Causes Apiphobia?
Apiphobia can be caused by a traumatic event (like a bee sting), or it can simply arise on its own without any obvious cause. When apiphobia is caused by a traumatic event, it is called an experiential fear, whereas if there is no practical cause for the fear, it is called an innate fear.
Much less research has been done on innate fear than experiential fear, meaning that there is not as much known about apiphobia that has no apparent trauma linked to it.
Apiphobia Caused by Trauma
In the case of experiential fear, someone with apiphobia may have been stung by a bee and learned how much it hurts, or may know that they are allergic to bees and are therefore terrified of them. This fear is then based on learning, rather than something innate in them that makes them afraid of bees.
Especially when caused by a traumatic event, it is important for a person to learn as much as they can about bees so that they can understand that most bees rarely sting and are not aggressive towards humans.
Apiphobia With No Apparent Cause
With innate fear, there is no trauma or knowledge that makes someone afraid of bees. They just are, and it may not even make sense to the person themself. These innate fears have been studied much less than experiential fears, meaning that we know less about them.
When there is no apparent cause for apiphobia, exposure therapy is a great way to help the condition. Read on for an overview of therapies that are effective in the treatment of specific phobias.
How Can Someone Get Over Apiphobia?
Therapy and meditation are the best ways to manage any type of anxiety, including phobias. Specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy with exposure therapy exercises are most helpful for people with phobias.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that is often used to treat anxiety disorders. CBT helps people identify their anxious thoughts, where they stem from, and then helps people to respond to their anxious thoughts in a more helpful way.
For example, if someone’s first thought when confronted with a bee is “That bee is definitely going to sting me, and it will hurt a lot,” CBT might help them reframe that thought to sound more like “That bee probably will not sting me because bees are not very aggressive, and even if it does sting me, I will be okay because it won’t hurt that much.”
What is Exposure Therapy?
Exposure therapy is actually a subset of CBT that focuses on helping people confront their fears in safe ways. Exposure therapy is an incredibly helpful way to treat apiphobia, as it results in less avoidance and lower levels of fear overall.
Of course, in the case of people with bee allergies, it’s somewhat important for them to avoid real bees because anaphylactic shock is a very dangerous condition. However, such people can still expose themselves to pictures of bees, movies about bees, and texts about bees so that they can be less afraid of bees. They can also carry an Epipen everywhere they go, and remind themselves that they have it and that it will stop anaphylactic shock if it does happen.
How to Live with Apiphobia
The most important thing when living with apiphobia is to not let it control your life. A very effective way of treating apiphobia is to find a therapist who practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and/or exposure therapy who can help you with your symptoms.
If you don’t want to use therapy as a recovery method, you can perform exposure therapy on yourself by simply not avoiding bees. Try sitting out in nature where bees might be present for five minutes at first, and then increase the amount of time you spend gradually until you can spend a whole day outside without being afraid.
You can also research and learn about bees to help yourself understand that most species of bees rarely sting, and that it is very easy to avoid interaction with them by simply letting them go about their business.
You can even visit a beekeeper’s farm and ask them to teach you a bit about bees and introduce you to their bees while wearing a protective suit so that you can get used to being around many bees all at once.
While apiphobia is a difficult condition to live with, like any other phobia, it can be treated effectively. If you’re living with apiphobia, it’s important to know that bees are essential pollinators and even if you are afraid of them, it’s essential to leave them alone in their habitat to do their important work so that agriculture does not collapse.