Sharks and crocodiles can snap up legs. The venom in a rattlesnake bite or scorpion sting will shut down a healthy heart in a matter of hours. But only one of nature’s killers sends my adrenal glands into overdrive. There, on the handle of my car door, with yellow and black stripes saying “Don’t mess with me,” it menacingly waits. It may have been a honeybee or a hornet or a wasp, but regardless, it was a member of superfamily Apoidea. The lump that lodges in my throat when I spot an apoid identifies me: I am an apiphobic. I am afraid of bees.
Most would call that fear ridiculous; bees only harm those who won’t leave them alone. Perhaps true, but I see only a lightning-fast assailant, nimble and unpredictable, whipping around my head, too quick to see, its location given away only by the unmistakable buzz past my ear. To see or hear one bee is to be warned of possibly hundreds more. In a swarm, they operate more efficiently and precisely than any army. They split my attention when on the offense, dive-bombing my face, distracting me while others plant themselves on my exposed arm skin. Now my arms flail wildly, trying to swat these little gargoyles out of the sky to no avail as they deftly dodge and wrap around each swing.
I’ve given up any hope of conquering or out-maneuvering my apoid foes. When one approaches, I pray my stillness will discourage it from getting closer—though I’ve been told they can smell fear. Once they breach the foot-deep barrier I call “personal space,” I abandon ship. I’ve flung myself out of patio chairs, run out into busy streets, and ( when I was much younger) retreated indoors and refused to re-emerge. They can have the outdoors. I’m vocal about my opposition to outdoor seating; the last thing I’d like to confront during my meal is a wasp curious about my lunch. More embarrassing is the inevitable mockery from my friends: “It’s just a bee, chill out. It won’t bother you.” Hovering around my head does bother me.
I’ve been stung on many occasions: At age three, I once infringed on a honeybee while stomping around the yard barefoot; when I was eleven, my brother invoked the wrath of a colony of yellow jackets after shaking their nest; and when I was thirteen, a wasp decided it was not my lucky day, stinging me in the hand unprovoked. These events serve as rationale for my phobia, though I tend to exaggerate the actual pain I experienced.
For clarification, I do not hate bees or wasps (I do hate yellow jackets). I fear them. I respect them, for they truly are a force of nature. Of the honeybee, in particular, I think fondly, for not only does it serve through pollination, its last measure of defense requires the sacrifice of its own humble life, all to desperately protect the colony. I fear the sting, and by proxy the honeybee, though I would wish no ill upon their species. The fear I feel is instinctual, a defense mechanism against perceived threats. It takes effort, however, to rewire my brain differently. The mantra “they’re more scared of you than you of them” may never be proven, but I must at least be conscious that my phobia is biased. If I, and all others who share the fear, endure the terrifying apoids, we enjoy the benefits of their tireless pollination.
I stare at the apoid stuck to my door handle and reaching deep into my stomach for courage to muster, I get my hand close, closer still to the handle, whispering an apology to a tiny creature who cannot understand it. The apoid senses it and zips away from my car in a crooked pattern. A small victory, sure, but with each win, my confidence in the face of these fears grows. I used to be simply crippled by bees dancing around rose bushes along the sidewalk. Now, unless they’re particularly nosy, I take a deep breath and stride past.
Caretto ’18 is chasing his dream in the City of Angels, where he hopes to one day create a TV show. Until then, he writes for fun about many things that fascinate him, including movies, high school, forgotten historical celebrities, and other members of his generation.