Apiophobia – the fear of bees.

The English word phobia is derived from the Greek phobos, meaning fear, and can be defined as ‘a persistent fear of an object or situation the affected person will go to great lengths to avoid, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed’. Proximity to the source of the phobia will result in a corresponding level of distress: for someone with arachnophobia, the intensity of fear will increase the closer they get to a spider. The severity varies between individuals. Most sufferers are aware that their phobia results in an irrational reaction, but are powerless to stop it.

Phobias are a form of anxiety disorder and are thought to develop via a combination of experience, in the form of learning or conditioning, often at an early age, and predisposition related to heredity, genetics and brain chemistry. Studies have shown phobias to be more prevalent amongst females than males. Specific phobias involve fear of particular objects or environments, such as snakes (ophidiophobia) or heights (acrophobia), and social situations such as public speaking. Agoraphobia is the generalised fear of leaving home or a familiar safe haven.

Apiophobia, also known as apiphobia and melissophobia, is specifically the intense fear of bees. Afflicted individuals may avoid gardens, or other areas where bees are commonly found, and in extreme cases may stay indoors during daylight hours. Besides fear and avoidance strategies, other signs and symptoms are typical of many other phobias and include panic, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, trembling, sweating, a dry mouth and nausea.

In some instances, medications used to treat anxiety may be prescribed, however there is a lack of evidence for their efficacy in combating specific phobias, and at best they provide only temporary relief. Various forms of therapy, including hypnotherapy and meditation, may prove beneficial. Of course, you should always seek professional medical advice before embarking on any course of treatment, however, here are some tips that may be useful to those suffering from specific phobias, and apiophobia in particular:

* Do some research on your phobia and phobic stimulus. Knowledge is power and it may help you to adopt a more pragmatic approach.

* Reach out to groups or organisations devoted to addressing your phobia. This will enable you to network with others in a similar situation.

* Try to stay positive and remain in control. Surround yourself with supportive people who can provide assistance if necessary.

* Do not dwell on the source of your phobia, as this will only heighten anxiety. Although not easy, try to ignore it, or concentrate on something else.

* Remember that bees are typically only active during daylight.

* If you venture outdoors, try to choose clothing that is light in colour and made from smooth material. Bees prefer not to land on white-coloured surfaces, but can become agitated by dark, woolly fabrics, as these resemble the hides of their natural predators, like bears.

* At the first indication of bee infestation or swarms on your property, contact a professional beekeeper, or apiarist, to ensure safe and speedy removal.

Phobias are very common and may affect more than 18% of the population. Phobic stimuli are extremely diverse, and the ABC of specific phobias also includes:

Ablutophobia; the fear of washing or bathing.

Barophobia; the fear of gravity.

Coulrophobia; the fear of clowns.

Apiophobia – the fear of bees.

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