Melissophobia, or apiphobia, is when you have an intense fear of bees. This fear may be overwhelming and cause a great deal of anxiety.
Specific phobias are common. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 12.5 percent of adults will experience a specific phobia during their lifetime. Read on to learn more about melissophobia, what causes it, and how it’s treated.
Insect-related phobias like melissophobia are a common type of specific phobia. However, it’s still unknown what exactly causes phobias to develop. The following factors are believed to contribute:
- Negative experiences. A phobia may be linked to a distressing or unpleasant experience. For example, feeling the pain associated with a bee sting or having a bad reaction to a bee sting could lead to a fear of bees.
- Learned behavior. You may learn to fear something based off of information you receive from other sources. This could include things like observing a parent’s fear of bees or hearing news stories or warnings about “killer bees.”
- Individual factors. Everyone processes fear and anxiety in different ways. Some people may naturally have a more anxious temperament than others.
Symptoms of a specific phobia can be both psychological and physical. If you have melissophobia, you may experience psychological symptoms, such as:
- feeling an immediate intense fear or anxiety when you think about or see bees
- knowing that the anxiety you’re feeling is unreasonable, but being unable to control it
- going out of your way to avoid locations or situations that may bring you into contact with bees
Physical symptoms can also occur when you’re exposed to bees. They can include:
Additionally, a child with melissophobia may do the following in response to bees:
- cling or refuse to leave your side
- freeze up
- throw a tantrum
If you find that you have a fear of bees, there are some things you can do to help manage it.
- Aim to reframe the situation. While there are several very valid reasons to be afraid of them, bees are also very important. As pollinators, they’re vital for our ecosystems — and their numbers are in decline.
- Be prepared at home. Avoid having bees in your home by doing an inspection during winter for any areas that could potentially house a bee colony. If you find a hive or colony, contact a local beekeeper.
- Take steps not to attract bees. Bees are more drawn to dark colors, perfumes, and colognes. If you’re going to be in an area where bees are present, avoid wearing these things.
- Resist the urge to totally avoid bees. Take small steps to feel more comfortable around bees. This could be something like going to a park where bees may be around or a bigger step such as watching beekeepers at work. This is known as exposure therapy.
- Try to relax. Practice relaxation techniques to help lower your anxiety levels. These can include things like breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
- Join a support group. Sometimes talking to others that have shared similar experiences can help you to cope. Consider looking into an anxiety support group near you.
- Stay healthy. Taking care of yourself is important. Try to exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and get enough sleep.
- Carry your EpiPen. If your fear of bees is due to an allergy, be sure to carry your EpiPen on you at all times.
How to help a child with a fear of bees
In addition to the suggestions above, you can take additional steps to help a child afraid of bees.
- Be open and receptive. Allow your child to talk about their feelings and fears with you. Let them know that you’re there to listen and help them if they need it.
- Demonstrate positive behaviors. Children often learn by watching others. If you encounter a bee, try to stay calm and avoid behaviors such as swatting at it or running away.
- Avoid reinforcement. Try to have a normal routine and don’t go out of your way to avoid bees. Not only does this reinforce the idea that bees may be dangerous, but it also eliminates opportunities for exposure.
- Give praise. It can be difficult for anyone to face their fears. If your child does this, whether it’s looking at a picture of a bee or being in an area where bees are present, be sure to recognize them for it.
While many people may have a fear of bees and try to avoid them, speak with a doctor if you feel that your fear is causing a significant amount of distress or is negatively impacting your daily life, including your time:
- at home
- at work
- at school
Many phobias can be effectively treated with therapy. Additionally, therapy can be more effective when it’s started earlier.
There are no lab tests that can diagnose a specific phobia such as melissophobia. A doctor will begin by taking your medical and psychiatric history.
Next, the doctor will interview you about your condition. They’ll ask you for more details about your fears, how long you’ve had them, and the symptoms you’re experiencing.
They may also use diagnostic criteria to help them make a diagnosis. One example is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association.
The treatment for melissophobia involves therapy provided by a mental health professional. There are several possible treatment options.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
The goal of CBT is to change the way you think and behave regarding the object of your fear. A mental health professional will work closely with you on techniques to help you understand and manage your feelings of anxiety.
Throughout the therapy process, they’ll reinforce the idea that the cause of your fear — in this case, bees — is generally safe. You may also learn breathing and relaxation exercises to help you cope.
True to its name, exposure therapy involves gradual exposure to the object of your fear. The goal is to change your response over time, helping you to better manage your feelings of anxiety. It’s often combined with CBT.
For melissophobia, a mental health professional may begin by just talking about bees or asking you to think about bees. They may then move on to showing you a picture of a bee, eventually building up to a situation where you’re around bees.
Medications aren’t typically used to treat specific phobias. However, in some cases, they may be used on a short-term basis to help to reduce symptoms of anxiety while you’re undergoing treatment.
Medications that you may be prescribed can include:
A specific phobia is an intense fear of an animal, object, or situation. This fear is exaggerated when compared to the threat that the thing poses. Insect-related phobias, such as the fear of bees, also called melissophobia, are common.
Several treatments can be used to treat melissophobia, including cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and medications. Treatment can be more effective when started early.
If you experience a fear of bees that’s regularly disruptive to your day-to-day life, speak with a mental health professional. They’ll work with you to evaluate your symptoms and develop an appropriate treatment plan.