Overview of the Fear of Bees (Apiphobia)

Cheyenne Montgomery/Moment/Getty Images
Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Known as apiphobia, the irrational fear of bees is arguably one of the most common specific animal phobias. Like all phobias, the fear of bees may have many different causes. Some people develop a phobia after being stung or watching someone else get stung, but prior exposure is not necessary for the fear to occur.


There is a distinct difference between not wanting to get stung by a bee, and someone who is apiphobic. Those with apiphobia often significantly limit themselves, such as avoiding the outdoors in an effort to not come in contact with bees or refusing to go out during certain times when bees are more common.

Bee Stings

In most people, a bee sting is a mildly painful annoyance. Nonetheless, the experience can be frightening, especially for children. Bees often swarm, traveling together in tightly packed groups. Although it is relatively uncommon to be stung by more than one bee at once, it can certainly happen, especially if the hive is disturbed. Being attacked by numerous bees simultaneously may increase the risk of developing a phobia.

Some people are highly allergic to bee stings. In people with an allergy, even a single sting could cause a dangerous anaphylactic reaction.

By definition, a phobia is irrational. For those who are allergic to bee stings, however, the fear is perfectly rational. If you are allergic to bees, then a fear of them is not necessarily considered a phobia.

Killer Bees

Bees take on the role of villain in numerous films, but the popular media may be to blame for some cases of apiphobia. So-called Africanized bees developed when specially bred African bees, believed to produce more honey, were accidentally released in the 1950s. The African bees mated with other species of wild bees, producing a strain of Africanized bees that are more aggressive than the relatively docile European bees.

As the Africanized bees continue to spread across the world, the media reports on their progress, often greatly exaggerating their aggressive tendencies. The term "killer bees" is often used to describe this strain, even though they are responsible for only one or two deaths in the United States each year.


Bees are exceptionally common, making it very difficult to avoid them. Fortunately, like all phobias, the fear of bees generally responds well to a variety of brief therapy options. Of course, if you are allergic to bee stings, it is important to work with your physician to develop an appropriate plan to minimize your risks.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind 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.
  1. Schönfelder ML, Bogner FX. Individual perception of bees: Between perceived danger and willingness to protect. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(6):e0180168. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0180168

  2. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Stinging insect allergy.

  3. Pucca MB, Cerni FA, Oliveira IS, et al. Bee updated: current knowledge on bee venom and bee envenoming therapy. Front Immunol. 2019;10:2090. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.02090

  4. Samra CK, Abdijadid S. Specific phobia. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing.

By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.