The fear of bees (apiphobia) is fairly easy to define! It’s just what it says – being afraid of bees! (Of course, for some apiphobias, the fear may be more specifically of being stung by a bee!)
Apiphobia is one of the more common phobias. However, I am unable to find accurate assessments of the prevalence.
Apiphobia can originate in childhood. A bee sting, although harmless to almost everybody, can seem quite painful to a child, and so a child stung by a bee may carry a fear into adulthood.
This phobia may also be learned from parents – a parent who panics if a bee flies near may cause a child to develop a phobia.
Some of the phobia of bees that is exhibited by adults is caused by lack of knowledge or exaggerated by the sensationalist stories and films about “killer bees” (relating to the Africanized bee). Bees only sting in defence – either in self-defence or in defence of the hive. Despite the reputation that has been given to them by the media, Africanized bees kill very few people (maybe one or two people a year in the USA). More importantly, it must be understood that bees are extremely important insects (a fact that applies to bumblebees as well as to honey bees) for humankind because of their role in pollination. There is an excellent website that gives a lot of free information about bees – follows the link below:
As with other phobias, people who suffer from fear of bees may exhibit physical, psychological, and behavioural symptoms.
Apiphobics may experience some of the usual range of physical symptoms: nausea; palpitations; sweating; feeling faint; rapid heartbeat; shortness of breath; tightness in the chest; abdominal pains. Remember, the symptoms of phobia can occur even in the absence of the trigger – so someone who suffers from fear of bees might experience any of the above symptoms merely at the thought of a bee, or upon seeing a picture of a bee!
The fear of insects may cause sufficient anxiety in the sufferer that it leads to a full panic attack on being in the presence of a bee.
Avoidance is a regular feature of fear of bees, as it is with fear of insects generally, and as with other phobias, the avoidance behaviours vary in their severity and impact. Some sufferers may avoid picnics in order to avoid bees or may avoid walking in parks or gardens that have flowers, which may attract bees. However, as with other phobias, people who suffer from apiphobia may become prisoners in their own home simply because of the fear of coming into contact with the insects.
You will not be surprised to learn that the treatments that have been tried for apiphobia are the same as for other phobias – usually with the same sort of results! Antidepressants and tranquillizers have been tried – with limited success (although they do have some benefit for some people in reducing the physical and emotional symptoms).
Cognitive behavioural therapy has been tried – again with limited success, although it does enable some people to develop an understanding of their condition and develop ways of behaving in order to cope with their fear.
Psychotherapy is sometimes used as is group therapy, but I have to say that I think there’s very little point trying to get to understand the origins of your phobia – if you have it, then you just want to find a way to deal with it!
Gradual exposure to the phobic stimulus. It is possible to adapt this process for any phobia. Starting with pictures, and building to being in the presence of the real thing. (One method I have seen for dealing with arachnophobia (fear of spiders), which could be adapted for fear of bees) starts with the sufferer making a simple line drawing of a spider, then increasing the level of sophistication of the drawing then looking at an accurate black and white drawing then a colour picture than looking at a real spider in a jar.)
Hypnosis can be an effective treatment for fear of bees. As covered on other pages on this site, the three most effective methods are positive phobia replacement; positive visualisation; and Hypno desensitisation. Follow the links below to learn how to use each technique, whilst bearing in mind my constant comment that all phobias are more successfully treated by a trained therapist with the use of self hypnosis as support, than by use of self hypnosis as the sole therapy.