Apiphobia and The Fear of Bees

​ For some people, bees are the stuff of nightmares. Most of us are fearful of something, but some fears prevent us from living a normal life. An example of such a limiting fear is apiphobia.

The word ‘apiphobia’ is derived from the Latin and Greek words, ‘api’ and ‘phobos,’ which mean ‘bees’ and ‘deep dread,’ respectively. It’s used to describe the fear of bees, which is sometimes irrational.

Avoiding bees because one doesn’t want to get stung doesn’t mean that they’re apiphobic. No one wants to get stung by a bee. An apiphobic person, however, might go to extreme measures to avoid any possibility of an interaction with bees at all.

For an apiphobic person, seeing a bee can have them shaking with terror and send them into a panic. To those who don’t share this fear, it might seem irrational, but it’s not their fault, and they can’t help it at the time.

What Causes Apiphobia?

Fears are easily developed during childhood, and so this is the root of a lot of apiphobia cases. Some reasons why apiphobia could develop are:

  • Allergy
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Media Representation


Some people are allergic to bee stings to the point where it can be deadly for them if they’re stung enough times. Knowing that enough stings could end with their death can be enough to drive them over the fear cliff and into apiphobia.

It doesn’t matter if they’ve been stung before and had a near-death experience or if they haven’t ever been stung — the fear could develop all the same.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

People who’ve had unfortunate accidents with bees, like getting stung by several bees, or swarmed, can end up apiphobic. 

This is especially the case when the victim was a child when the incident occurred. It can be an alarming experience and might lead to PTSD, which will manifest as apiphobia. 

Media Representation

It also hasn’t helped that bees have been the villains several times in everything from cartoons to movies. The media has represented bees as a swarming mass of danger many times. 

Growing up watching this on TV can develop a perceived threat from bees, rather than a fear backed up by a real-life experience. 

Killer Bees

The craze for bees as villains in the media started with the popular “killer bees.” The origin of this phrase is a bee-related accident that occurred in the 1950s. Back then, African bees, which were thought to produce more honey, were imported into the country.

These African bees were accidentally released into the public. These bees ended up mating with other species of wild bees in Europe, creating a new strain of bees, which were referred to as “Africanized bees.”

These Africanized bees were way more aggressive than the regular European bees, which were more docile. These bees were called “killer bees” for the fact that they could kill their victims when they attacked.

This led to several stories and movies of giant bees with lethal venom, which is the opposite in reality. Killer bees are actually smaller than regular honey bees, and their stingers carry a less potent venom.

The only reason they’ve been able to kill several hundred people in the past 50 years is that they respond much quicker to colony disturbance than regular honey bees and in greater numbers. Their swarm is huge.

To kill an average-sized adult who has no allergies, the victim has to have been stung up to a thousand times. In regular bees, this number is very unlikely to be achieved. In Africanized bees, however, it’s very possible.

Regardless, the media greatly exaggerated the aggressive nature of these bees and, understandably, it led to fear.

Symptoms of Apiphobia

A few symptoms of apiphobia are:

  • Extreme signs: An irrational and sometimes extreme fear of bees, to the point where even thinking about, talking about or viewing media of bees, can drive them into a deep fear
  • Avoidance: Total avoidance of areas where bees, whether individual or as a hive, can be found. This also extends to an avoidance of outings and seasons when bees might be more common
  • Physical symptoms: The experience of panic attacks, difficulty breathing and general nausea and sickness, including fainting
  • Awareness: The awareness that the fear is irrational

Treatment for Apiphobia

Apiphobia can be a serious problem if you live somewhere where bees are very common. It can cause you to miss out on so many things. As such, if it’s been a standing situation for up to six months, it’s time to see a doctor. There are different ways apiphobia can be treated:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Medicines
  • Relaxation and exposure therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This process involves talking with a therapist and unearthing the roots behind the fear of bees. Usually, the fear is born out of the negativity that comes to mind at the thought of bees, either from a bad experience, or just fear. In both cases, the therapist shares and talks with the affected person, trying to change these views on bees and make the person see them more positively using positive facts of bees.


In very severe cases, an affected person may need to use medicine to curb their apiphobia. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can help control apiphobia, as they help the brain balance chemicals like serotonin, which determines a person’s temperament.

Relaxation and Exposure Therapy

This is a very simple process, although it’s more practical and hands-on than CBT. It involves using toys, pictures or other visual methods to induce a feeling of being around bees. The purpose of this isn’t to cause fear for the affected person unnecessarily; it’s to help them develop a tolerance for bees safely. Seeing these images of bees all the time will help the individual get used to bees and lose the fear.

It’s a gradual process, and often involves relaxation exercises such as meditation and yoga. This helps the patient to be calm while facing their fear until the fear disappears.


Not wanting to get stung is very normal, but when an individual begins to go to extreme lengths just to avoid bees, then this is apiphobia. Such a fear of bees can be limiting and can cause someone to alter their day-to-day life negatively. Luckily, apiphobia can be treated via medicine or therapy and doesn’t have to persist.

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