What Is the Fear of Bees?

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Also known as apiphobia or melissophobia, a bee phobia is an intense and irrational fear of bees that can affect your quality of life.

Bee phobia is a type of specific phobia. Read on to learn more about how bee phobia presents, why it occurs, and what you can do about it.

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Definition of Bee Phobia

Bee phobia is categorized as an animal phobia, which is a type of specific phobia.

Specific Phobias

Specific phobias involve intense, irrational fear of an object or situation that is unlikely to be harmful or dangerous. It can also be an exaggerated reaction to a potential threat.

For example, although bees can sting, they usually only sting when threatened. Unless you're allergic to bees, the injury is typically minor—a small area of pain, redness, and swelling that resolves within a day.

People who have a phobia of bees have a fear level that's higher than the actual threat warrants. They may know the fear is irrational, but they feel the fear anyway.

For people with a specific phobia, anxiety symptoms can occur even if they're not around the source of their fear. Thinking about it, anticipating encountering it, or seeing a representation of it such as a photo or video can cause severe anxiety symptoms.

Characteristics

An encounter with a bee can cause people with a bee phobia to experience symptoms similar to a panic attack, such as:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Feeling like they're losing control
  • Feeling like they're choking
  • Difficulty distinguishing what is real
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Thoughts of death
  • Nausea or other gastrointestinal issues
  • A sensation of butterflies in the stomach
  • Headaches
  • Numbness or having a pins and needles (tingling) feeling
  • Dry mouth
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Confusion or disorientation

People with a bee phobia are likely to avoid situations in which they may encounter a bee. The fear may even influence larger decisions, such as choosing to live in a big city instead of a rural area.

Diagnosis

Apiphobia isn't a diagnosis in and of itself. It falls under the category of specific phobia, which does have an official diagnosis.

Based on the criteria outlined in the fifth edition of the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM-5), people with a specific phobia:

  • Experience intense, excessive, and persistent fear of a specific object or situation
  • Have feelings of anxiety, fear, or panic when they encounter the source of their fear
  • Have a fear that is out of proportion to the actual risk posed by the object or situation
  • Avoid the feared object or situation, or experience intense anxiety or discomfort when they encounter it
  • Have a fear, anxiety, or avoidance that causes significant distress (it bothers them that they have the fear) or significant interference in their day-to-day life, such as difficulty performing important tasks at work, meeting new friends, attending classes, or interacting with others
  • Have persistent fear, anxiety, or avoidance (usually lasting at least six months)
  • Have fear, panic, and avoidance that are not better explained by another disorder or cause

People who have phobias are usually aware that they have them. Talking with a healthcare professional (usually a primary healthcare provider) can help lead to a diagnosis. Your provider can suggest treatment or make a referral to a mental health professional.

Bee Allergy vs. Bee Phobia

A bee phobia is a fear that's disproportionate to the risk posed by bees. People with serious bee allergies have a high risk of a bee sting causing physical harm, and their avoidance of bees is rational. A person who is afraid of bees because they're allergic is unlikely to have a bee phobia.

Causes

Specific phobias can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Direct learning experiences: A traumatic experience with the feared object or situation, such as having been stung by a bee
  • Observational learning experiences: Seeing others experience the feared object or situation, or living with the phobia, for instance, seeing another person be stung by a bee, or growing up in a household in which an adult of significance, such as a parent, had a fear of bees
  • Informational learning: Learning about the source of fear through avenues like the news, books, or on television, where bees are often portrayed as more dangerous or aggressive than they are
  • Evolutionary trait: Negative attitudes toward animals that may stem from a biological predisposition by humans to be prepared for encounters with a potentially dangerous species

Treatment

There are several treatments available for specific phobias.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a treatment that encompasses many types of talk therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that is commonly used to treat phobias.

CBT involves identifying unhealthy or harmful thought and behavioral patterns, examining them, and transforming them into healthy ones.

Exposure therapy is an exercise used in CBT that's helpful for many people with phobias. It involves gradually introducing a person to the source of the phobia and increasing the closeness little by little.

Fear Ladder for Fear of Bees

Exposure therapy is done in a controlled environment. It often uses a technique called a fear ladder. A fear ladder for bees might include the following:

  1. Look at pictures of bees.
  2. Watch a video about bees.
  3. Look at a bee through a window.
  4. Look at a bee in a glass jar from across the street.
  5. Stand 10 feet away from a bee in a glass jar.
  6. Stand 5 feet away from a bee in a glass jar.
  7. Stand beside a bee in a glass jar.
  8. Stand far away and observe a bee flying freely.
  9. Stand 10 feet away from a bee flying freely.
  10. Stand 5 feet away from a bee flying freely.
  11. Stand near a bee flying freely.


Medication

Medication is usually not prescribed for a bee phobia, but antianxiety medications may be prescribed if you and your healthcare provider feel they're right for you.

Coping

While professional treatment is effective, there are some measures you can take on your own to help with your bee phobia, including:

  • Learn about bees: Learn facts about bees, how to safely be around bees, and how to foster an environment that helps bees and you. Not only can learning about bees reduce your fear, but it may also prompt you to support conservation efforts.
  • Use relaxation techniques: Mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, can help you manage anxiety.
  • Use visualization: While using relaxation and breathing techniques, imagine how you would handle an encounter with a bee.
  • Join a support group: Talking with—and learning from—other people who have phobias can help.
  • Take care of your overall health: Adopting healthy lifestyle practices can keep you healthy, which helps you manage anxiety. People who exercise regularly may become less sensitive to the physical feelings of a panic attack, which can reduce fear.

Summary

A bee phobia can also be called apiphobia or melissophobia. It's a specific phobia, which means it involves an intense, irrational fear of an object or situation that's unlikely to be harmful or dangerous. An encounter with a bee may cause symptoms similar to a panic attack.

CBT is a type of psychotherapy often used to treat phobias. In most cases, medication isn't prescribed for a bee phobia. Antianxiety medications may be prescribed, if necessary.

A Word From Verywell

Having a bee phobia can impact your quality of life. Yet, a bee sting injury is typically minor unless you're allergic to bees.

If fear of bees is affecting your daily life, have a conversation with your healthcare provider. They can refer you to a mental health professional.

There are also efforts you can try on your own to help manage feelings of anxiety, such as deep breathing, joining a support group, and using visualization.

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10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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