Irrational fear of bees?

Why do some people seem to have an exaggerated, irrational fear of bees? I’ve seen many instances in which people get really freaked out by noticing a bee around them, causing them to run and scream in a way that seems way out of proportion.
Yesterday my wife was eating lunch outside with a group of coworkers and she saw this happen. A woman nearby saw a bee, jumped up and ran away screaming, then threw her lunch away because the bee had landed on it.
I know people have phobias about all sorts of things, but I’ve seen this bee fear acted out more than I would expect for a true phobia of any sort. Sure, nobody wants to be stung, but these reactions seem so out of proportion to the threat. Any thoughts on why?

If I get stung I may go into anaphalaxis and die. That’s sub-optimal. I don’t react the way you describe, but I understand if someone did.

They may also have memories of being stung after annoying a hive; with innumerable bees/wasps/hornets flying around them and no way to get away. It can be very traumatic and leave you feeling pretty helpless.

I used to have a similar reaction to what’s described in the OP. Like Telemark, I too am allergic to bee stings, though not quite as severely by the sound of it. Actually, over the years, my reaction has gotten steadily less severe, so now, I generally only get a welt about the size of a silver dollar from a sting. When I was a kid, up through high school, though, a single sting could get me to have visible welts up to 6 inches across, with severe pain and itching. Multiple stings could start making breathing difficult.

Since my reaction is much less now, and I’ve learned they generally don’t bother you unless you bother them, my reaction is much more subdued now, but, they’ll get me to move if they’re agressive, especially now through early fall, when frankly, bees and wasps will sting with minimal provocation (they’re much more docile in springtime).

As someone who’s afraid of bees (although I’m not as bad as I used to be) it’s the fear of the unknown. I know bee stings hurt and because I’ve never been stung I imagine it being extremely painful.

Anecdotal data point: I am one of the flailers-and-screamers. I’ve actually been stung by a couple of honeybees as an adult, and it was really no big deal at all, so I’m aware that my fear is irrational. I think mine began when I stepped on a bumblebee as a child (about 5 or 6): I don’t remember the pain, but I remember lifting my foot and seeing the bee on my sole. It must have been the combination of pain + surprise + the sight of the bumblebee. I have jumped into oncoming auto traffic to avoid an oncoming bee, which is both stupid and kind of antisocial.

I’ve managed it to the point where I don’t mind bees when I can see their goal is a plant or a hive, but seeing them flying through the air (possibly STRAIGHT AT ME!!! To somehow mildly HARM ME!!11!) still makes me run or flail.

So, in my case, knowledge of the specific trigger + awareness of the irrationality + exposure to the source of the phobia + intellectual analysis and attempts to avoid the panic response have had only limited success.

I am irrationally afraid of bees. I’m not allergic, and I’m not particularly pain sensitive. I don’t particularly worry about needles or giving blood.

I can’t quite put my finger on why. My wife got into beekeeping, and I have a suit, and have done things like load the bees into the hive while suited up. However, even with a suit on, if a bee is buzzing around my face, or on my hands, I get very nervous.

Honestly, sitting here with no bees around, it seems weird that I’m so nervous around them, it’s a pinch, a little ouchie. I’ve had hundreds of worse injuries, and not because I’m clumsy, but because a bee sting is no big deal.

I guess that’s why it’s an irrational fear.
Edited to add
I also had an experience like Drake, I didn’t get stung, but I was sitting in the car as a kid, and felt a tickle on my leg. HUGE f’n bee crawling up my leg. Creeps me out just thinking about it.

Allergic to bee stings. Had a reaction a few years ago where my windpipe almost closed after being stung – my neck just about doubled in size. Saw death knocking at my door.

So pardon me if I feel extremely uncomfortable if there are bees around. I’ll leave and let them bee :wink:

I’m not allergic, but I have been stung, and it really freaking hurts, and I’ll avoid it at all costs. That’s why I’m afraid of bees.

Though at lunchtime today, I was sitting outside very near to some bees who were peacefully buzzing around some flowers, and I didn’t flinch at all.

So my reaction varies.

We have a girl at work like that. She says she may be allergic to bees, but no one in her family is and she’s never been stung so she has no reason to believe she is (she says all that). She’s loud and annoying in general and, personally, I think when she sees a bee at work it’s just an excuse to spend the day screeching and moving around a lot so people look at her. It’s bad enough that if there’s one in the building, when she get’s to work, I’ve told her that if she’s going to act like that she can just go home because no one wants to listen to her screeching about it all day.

If she’s never been stung it’s impossible for her to be allergic. An allergic reaction is your body’s overreaction to something it’s already encountered. It can’t be on the first exposure.

Bees are virtually always completely unaggressive unless you start poking their hive with a stick or something. Also they entirely beneficial. It is utterly irrational to be afraid of bees unless you are allergic. They just aren’t going to sting you unless you sit on them or something.

It isn’t irrational to be afraid of being stung, though. My experience is that all animals are highly motivated to remove themselves from the territory of aggressive wasps, and this approaches the level of a primal fear.

What’s irrational is being unable to react differently in the presence of a wasp and a bee, since one is really a potential threat (although our horrible and vicious wasps still won’t attack unless you are near their nest) and one is not at all.

But then, I seem to find it impossible to sympathize with people who are afraid of any animal who is no threat whatsoever. It isn’t so much that they are acting in a pathetic and laughable manner, it’s that they so often use their stupid emotion as an excuse to kill something that never did and never would do them any harm.

Also I’ve feeling really misanthropic today.

What makes you think it’s exaggerated or irrational? Some people are allergic and run the risk of anaphylaxis, others got badly stung when they were small. And accidentally swallowing a bee will kill anyone.

You don’t seem to understand this very well at all. My phobia makes me flee from bees, not kill them. To kill them I would have to voluntarily be in the same space as them, which is something I can’t bring myself to do. And of course it’s irrational: phobias are irrational by definition. If it were rational, it would not be a phobia. Laughing at someone’s psychological malfunction (not sure of the technical term) is kind of a bastard thing to do, like something a bee would think of.

People with phobias have reactions out of proportion to the threat essentially by definition. If you only run away from lions and polar bears, obviously you’re not phobic.

And the more severe the phobia, the stronger the reaction, regardless of the actual danger. The dangerosity of pigeons is extremely limited and that of statues is non-existent, and people have those two phobias and tons of even weirder ones (of clustered holes, of falling up to the sky…)


Mine is the “stung when small” thing. It’s made me become “once bitten, twice shy” WRT bees or any similar insect.

I’d say that throwing your lunch away because a bee landed on it qualifies as irrational. Ditto for screaming in the presence of a bee. Neither of these actions offers any potential benefit.

I’m not laughing. I’m snarling. Where’s the snarling emoticon? Well, this will have to do. :mad:

I’m glad you run away, safer for bees. I really need to do something more productive with my time. Or, failing that, shut the hell up.

Agreed that people who are deathly allergic have a RATIONAL fear of bees. What percent of people who are afraid of bees can die from a sting? 1%? 5%? I have encountered a ton of people who are irrationally scared of bees as well. It is very confusing. A bee/wasp sting is extremely minor and yet people will flip out when they are in the vicinity of a bee or wasp.

I guess what’s so aggravating about these people is that they’re pretty commonly encountered, so you see this fear exhibited fairly often and the amount of potential harm is so small. People who are afraid of dogs or guns at least have a legitimately deadly ‘adversary’. People without deadly allergies of bees are facing what is essentially a bad insect bite.

I guess the fundamental question is why is this so common? Perhaps childhood stings account for the majority of the cases? I don’t know.

C’mon, Quartz, explain this. Otherwise I’m picturing a grown-as man warning a co-worker: “Yeah Huh! It’s true! If you swallow a bee you’ll DIE!!1!” A la those annoying Subway commercials.