Apiphobia (from Latin apis for “honey bee”) or Melissophobia (from Greek melissa for “honey bee”) is the term for abnormal fear of bees. Apiphobia is an anxiety disorder that can bring about both psychological and physiological symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Apiphobia?
Some of the psychological symptoms of Apiphobia include:
- Intense, extreme fear – Those suffering from Apiphobia suffer extreme anxiety at just the thought of seeing bees or being near them.
- Uncontrollable reaction – Recognition that the fear is irrational but has no ability to control it.
- Avoidance behaviour – staying away from areas that bees might inhabit (like flower gardens or picnics), or taking extreme precaution by staying indoors during the season when bees are most likely to be around. The person with apiphobia often limits their experiences so as not to have to come in contact with bees.
As with other anxiety disorders, physical symptoms can accompany the psychological ones:
- Increased heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Dizziness or disorientation
These physical symptoms can occur when the sufferer is actually in proximity to bees or just picturing the scene in their mind.
What Causes Apiphobia?
Before discussing how to treat apiphobia, it’s important to recognize how it may have developed.
Someone with a bee phobia may have had a bad experience with bees. A painful sting could very well lead a person to be fearful of the type of insect that caused that pain. But the phobic person may not have been the victim; he or she could have witnessed it and found it so distressing that a phobia developed.
The phobic person could have also seen something published in an article or shown in a news segment, a movie, or a video. A phobia can even be passed down from parents who essentially “teaches” their children what they should fear based on their behaviours and reactions toward a feared object or activity.
How Can Apiphobia Be Treated?
Sufferers of apiphobia may want to try to manage their fear on their own before they decide to seek professional help. Here are some of the ways they can try to self-treat:
|Take back some control||By dressing and grooming in a way that won’t attract bees. They should also avoid bright and dark colors, and skip the perfume or fragrance if they are going to be outside.|
|Have the home inspected||During the winter to ensure there aren’t any hives in the house, and seal off any areas that may be potential nesting locations.|
|Mentally re-frame||Use positive self-talk and remember all of the reasons why bees are helpful and vital for the environment. If people can see the good in bees, it may help to remove some of the fear.|
|Use breathing exercises||Breathing exercises, along with other relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation, can be a great way to help the anxiety.|
|Seek out a support group||It might help to talk to other people who have the same fears.|
|Face the fear in small steps||Maybe that means attempting to walk into a park with a garden, gradually getting closer and closer to the flowers each time they visit. This is a technique called exposure therapy and is often best done with the guidance of a licensed therapist.|
If someone decides they need the help of an experienced professional to overcome apiphobia, there are a few well-known therapies that are successful for treating phobias. The first, mentioned above, is called exposure therapy. This method exposes the phobic patient to various stimuli that – with each exposure – can help the patient respond with less fear over a period of time.
For example, the first exposure could include looking at a still photo of a bee. The next exposure could be an action video or a discussion of the patient’s fear. Ultimately, the final exposure would include placing the patient in a situation where he would have to physically confront his fear of bees.
Another common therapeutic technique is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This kind of therapy works by resetting or reframing the way a person thinks about their fear – which will ultimately lead to a change in behaviour in relation to the feared object or activity.
A therapist would work with the patients and help them to understand how their thoughts and beliefs about bees are making them anxious. Once thought patterns change, behavioural change follows. The therapist will also teach patients how to manage anxiety through relaxation exercises and breathing techniques.
Medication can also be prescribed for patients undergoing therapy. While medication can’t treat specific phobias, it may be useful for managing anxiety. A physician or psychiatrist must be consulted before prescription drugs are dispensed, and will decide which class of pharmaceuticals are appropriate for the particular patient.
Which Species of Bees Are the Most Aggressive and Likely to Sting?
Some bees are not aggressive at all. These are the solitary bees that typically dig their nests in the ground and take care of the developing brood without help from other bees. They don’t have a valuable hive to protect, so they are very unlikely to sting unless they are threatened.
Honey bees and bumblebees are more aggressive, and the honey bee tends to signal other bees for “help” as soon as the first bee discovers an intruder.
But Africanized honey bees (Apis mellifera scutellata), a hybrid species that formed when Brazilian honey bees and southern African honey bees mated, are extremely aggressive and have been nicknamed “killer” bees.
Their venom isn’t any more potent than the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) but Africanized bees may bring out the entire colony to attack. European honey bees will likely strike out if someone gets within 33 feet of the hive, but Africanized bees go on the attack within an average distance of 328 feet.
Africanized bees also nest in places that would be common for a person to encounter without the expectation of a bee attack. They have been known to build their homes in junk piles, overturned flower pots, old tires, and even mailboxes.
Africanized bees are found in Arizona, southern Arkansas, southern California, central and southern Florida, western Louisiana, southern Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
How Can Bee Stings Bee Avoided?
Here are some tips to avoid being stung in the first place.
Avoid wearing certain kinds of fragrances. As mentioned earlier, avoid wearing fragrances when going to be outside – especially ones that are fruity or floral. Bees are attracted to those kinds of smells and are more likely to visit a person, as they would a flower if they smell like a rose or a fruity crop.
They won’t necessarily sting because of the smell, but there is a bigger chance to avoid a sting if a bee isn’t provided with a motivation to come near. This recommendation applies not only to traditional fragrances, but also soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and hair products.
Don’t wear bright colours. Bees don’t have the best eyesight and by wearing bright colours, they might mistake a person for a flower. Once again, the chances of getting stung increase as a bee gets nearer to the person.
Don’t walk around barefoot. Although it feels good to run barefoot through the grass, it will not be as pleasant an experience to step on a bee and get stung between the toes.
At a picnic, follow these rules. Bees have an affinity for nectar, and they like sweet foods. During the meal, beverages should be poured into wide-mouthed cups. No one wants to be surprised when they take a sip from their soda can and get stung on the lips. Bees can also be distracted by placing a sweet beverage on a faraway table, so the bees will choose to occupy that cup.
Once people have finished their meal, they should tightly cover the leftovers so that the bees cannot get at them. Then, dispose of the trash quickly in a receptacle that is not adjacent to the table.
Move away from bees flying in a straight line. When bees are foraging, they hop from flower to flower, but when they are headed to their hives or nests, they make a “beeline” for it, and if they’re flying this way the odds are good that the nest is close. People should avoid being near a hive or nest because that’s when bees may act most aggressively.
If a bee lands on a person, they should try not to move. Running around and flailing the arms when a bee lands on someone, the bee might think they are dangerous and sting them to protect itself. They also should not try to brush it off their arm clothes. Even a gentle solitary bee may sting if it’s handled while someone tries to remove it.