Apiphobia is derived from the Greek words apis, meaning bee and phobos, meaning fear. Add the two and you have fear of bees. A phobia can cause avoidance and panic. Duhh! It is a common anxiety disorder. Since when is anxiety a disorder? I have anxiety when confronted with the likelihood of suffering agony by some impersonal little biological missile bent on my utter destruction. An alternate term for the same condition is Melissophobia, melissa being another Greek term for bee. Of course, it could also be a fear of women named Melissa, but that subject belongs to another day.

The term phobia is defined as an unreasonable fear of something. I suggest that the term 'unreasonable' is open to interpretation. What may seem unreasonable to one may be imminently reasonable to another.

I have apiphobia, and have had it since I was a child. It seems entirely reasonable to me to avoid bees at almost any cost since the little devils engender pain, another thing of which I have a phobia.

I can remember a time when I wasn't afflicted with this phobia. When I was a kid growing up on the banks of the James River in Virginia, fishing was a fine way to spend a summer afternoon. Neither I nor my two brothers had a 'store-bought' fishing pole. We made our own from whatever served the purpose. The hardest part was locating a suitable pole. Succeeding in that, we'd cut a length of fishing line from a spool, attach a hook from the tin box of Eagle Claw hooks, attach a rusty nut of an appropriate weight to serve the purpose of a sinker, then off to the river bank we'd go. For bait I'd sometimes use wasp larvae.

To get them I used this technique: first, put a little gasoline in the bottom of a wide mouth jar. Locate a nest of paper wasps, one not too large to fit the jar opening. Approach with the utmost caution, molasses-in-January slow. Suspend jar exactly below nest while watching wasps for signs of defense activity. Get as close as possible to nest without spooking defenders, then quickly raise jar, trapping adult wasps. As soon as the jar encloses them, they launch defensive maneuvers. The vapors and contact with gasoline ensures a rapid and complete defeat, dead wasps floating on their petroleum-based river Styx. Adults dealt with, the nest is open to attack. The fat grub-like larvae are invited to being impaled on a small hook and cast into the river. Sun perch will go insane with greed when offered a wasp larvae buffet. The small perch fight in a manner completely incongruent with their small size. All this entertainment made available courtesy of a nest of wasp larvae.

We had a woodshed across the parking area from our house. I was in there one fine summer day, sans shirt, doing boy things. I was unaware of a nest of bumblebees who had made the shed their abode. I disturbed them and out they came, ready to make life miserable to the unlucky invader. I was a smart kid, so I knew when it was time to cut and run. Great concept, except I didn't get underway quickly enough. Though at that age I had no idea what an areola might be, those bees knew a target when they saw one. Bang, I was nailed! It hurt like a, well, a bee sting! I learned an important lesson in being cautious.

At the age of nine, our family moved. The new house was anything but new, being a fixer-upper to the nth degree. The house was a huge old two story structure, unique in that it had two porches, one overtop the other.

We worked on this house, making repairs from the period of just past New Year until April, when moving day came around. There was still snow on the ground when we made our move. The move was an adventure to a nine year old boy, though I missed our old house on the river. We did it over a weekend, moving everything we had the first day, getting it placed in our new digs the second.

Time passed, spring made its appearance, and the house revealed its secrets. The interior was sheathed in wood, a lathework of tongue-and-groove slats about 4 inches wide. Over the years while sitting empty these slats had warped, leaving visible gaps between them at random points.

The warmth of spring signalled the hidden paper wasp queens to come out and start their life cycle for another year. Huge black wasps crawled from every oriface in that house. Every night before bed it was a task to kill all the visible wasps. They hid everywhere, in the drapes, in the lampshades, in the bed on occasion. I've clicked off the light, ran to get between the sheets before the monsters came out, only to have bare legs set afire by wasp stings. My Mom would have inadvertently covered one up while making the bed earlier that day. It was trapped until I slipped between the sheets. Revenge was then exacted for the indignity to which it had been subjected.

Next morning when sleep fell away the first thing that you would notice was a squadron of new wasps, circling the airspace of the ceiling. I've lain in bed for hours, waiting for them to finally congregate to one side of the room or the other, leaving me a path of escape. It never worked out though, as it seems wasps have a sharply defined understanding of the term homogeneous. Finally I'd seize what shred of courage (or desperation) I possessed, bolt from bed and zoom out the door. We lived in that house for 7 years and never succeeded in completely eliminating the huge black wasps.

Years later, on a hot Sunday morning in August, my Mom, an aunt of mine, my aunt's sister, and myself went huckleberry picking. There was a good crop growing up the mountainside from our home. We set out, each with a 10 quart water bucket.

Huckleberries are small, let me tell you. A small one is about the size of a BB, a large one 2 to 3 times larger. It takes a lot of picking to cover the bottom of a 10 quart bucket, much less fill it. Huckleberries make wonderful preserves though, and are great on a hot biscuit or English muffin when the snowflakes are flying outside.

We each moved along the side of the ridge, picking and talking, settling into the rhythm of berry picking. I had a good harvest going, having picked enough huckleberries to fill my bucket maybe 6 inches deep. I was walking and picking, minding my own business when I noticed an awful lot of yellow jacket activity. As the dearly departed Crocodile Hunter was wont to say, "...danger, danger. I had wandered into a yellow jacket nest, concealed underground. My feet had apparently walked right overtop of it. I set about relocating in as soft and unassuming a manner as I could when Blam!, a yellow jacket nailed me on the hand. I let go a war-whoop, slung my hand to dislodge the little harpooner, and made my feet move faster, a lot faster. Imagine my horror when I realized the hand I was flinging about was the same one holding my berry bucket. I slung about a gallon of huckleberries down the side of that ridge as I retreated. Sympathy from my companions, you may ask? Not on your life! They were rolling around on the ground, laughing at my misery! That spelled the end to my huckleberry picking. I've never been back to the woods for huckleberries again.

In 1986 I went with my then fiance to her Mom's place out on Solomon's Island, Maryland to visit. While there we decided to repair the boat dock which the winter ice had lifted from its place. The wood was all there but in a disassembled condition. It looked like all we had to do was reassemble the parts and we'd be back in business. My fiance's Mom was standing behind where we were working, on the path from the dock to the house. To my horror I flipped over a section of dock to find a huge nest of paper wasps, and they weren't a bit happy! I bolted, seeking escape with all my speed...and my future mother-in-law was blocking the exit. I mowed through her like General William Tecumseh Sherman mowed through the south on his march on Atlanta during the Civil War, plowed her down, and left her to deal with the consequences. That woman never did much care for me after that.

I've suffered the indignity of having to get my wife to come kill bees that encroach into the house. My kids laugh and call me names. It became so bad I started to answer to my Latin name, Megawuss. This went on for years with seemingly no end in sight.

I'm better now. I can kill my own bees that invade my sanctuary. I can actually stand still and watch the bumblebees vie for territorial rights outside by our porch.

My daughter's boyfriend, who is a very expressive sort of fellow, was busily expressing his fear of snakes and bees just this past weekend. I adapted a sanctimonious tone and asked him the burning question "You're not afraid of a little bee, are you?" I still have the scorch marks on my face where my wife's stare landed.

Unreasonable fear of bees? Please, spare me....


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