Seeking research on bee phobia | NAAEE

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Seeking research on bee phobia

We have pollinator gardens and habitat programs at my Chicago elementary school, but I often hit a stumbling block: There's a significant number of students who are bee adverse. These are not kids with sting allergies; rather, they're students who have been taught (often unintentionally by caregivers) to scream, cry, and run away upon simply seeing a bee. I'd estimate that 1 in 6 students shows this aversion. Obviously, it hampers their learning, but it often hamstrings group projects as well.

Have you see any research on how best to work with these students? Any leads you can provide will be most helpful.

Hi Christopher - Since bees are my favorite animal, I'm hoping more children (and their grown-ups) will develop empathy for this little animal that is responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. If that's not motivation for helping young children care for and care about these little insects and their habitats (or homes!). A nice book to use with young children is The Honeybee by Kirsten Hall and Isabelle Arsenault. Bees are busy and typically aren't interested in us unless we are bothering them. (Not true for wasps and hornets - different animals) Bees do an amazing dance in their hives as they try to tell the other bees where to find the best flowers for their nectar and to pollinate. Young children will love the Bee Dance. Also, have a pollinator picnic - enjoy the foods we get from these special creatures whose big job is to make our food and help those plants grow. Check out some resources from a local bee keeper (or apiarist ) - the children will enjoy seeing the great gear these caregivers wear as they are raising bees. Learn more about bees and as Kirsten says, "Don't Bee Afraid of Bees!"
I hope also, you might check out our NatureStart Professional Development Program offered at Brookfield Zoo to support your interest in connecting young children to nature in meaningful and appropriate ways. -

Hi Christopher,
There are several ways that I'd recommend for desensitizing children to bees. I'd also say that using a mix of methods would be good in order to reach children on different levels (some research shows that children respond better to emotional based learning vs rational fact based learning for this kind of topic). One would be anthropomorphism, another would be teaching scientific info that both demonstrate how the bees don't normally sting (and what causes them to do so - protecting their queen mainly), and that shows how amazing bees are. Another would be direct exposure and experience, but this might be a later step. So perhaps a short lesson on bees using story telling, props and games to show how bees live, that they are vulnerable creatures and that they have amazing abilities. Then maybe having children draw bees as a superhero or as a dancer to solidify their learning and make them seem more "loveable", then finally practicing (without bees present) how to act around the bees, and hopefully taking that outside eventually. The key, if they are serious phobias, would be to go very slowly as rushing the process can make things worse!

Please find attached my article on insect education for children. Check the references at the end also for some other articles you might find useful! Good luck!


PDF icon boileau_and_russell_2018.pdf196.95 KB