Beekeeper Erika Thompson has come under fire for not wearing protective gear during her bee removals. Other professional beekeepers believe she sets a dangerous precedent.
If you are yet to see beekeeper Erika Thompson scoop bees up in her viral "bee removal" videos, you probably have not spent a lot of time on social media lately. Over the past few weeks, her clips of coming in direct contact with docile bees have taken the internet by storm. Through her videos, the beekeeper wishes to reiterate that bees are safe and will not sting you unless you aggravate them. However, the beekeeper community is divided. Many have criticized Thompson for her lack of protective gear. They believe she has set a dangerous precedent that could end up hurting someone, Refinery29 reports.
Thompson, who owns the company Texas Beekeepers, is on a mission to "preserve, protect, and increase bee populations across the Lone Star State." To do this, she offers bee removal services—which she often films and then uploads to social media. These videos consist of her dressed in plain clothing (usually a pair of black leggings and a top) scooping up bees from various surfaces with her bare hands. Her hair is also usually untied. Viewers are aware of a common theme in all her clips: she truly believes bees are harmless creatures who will not hurt you unless you intentionally agitate them.
Of course, the videos have stunned social media users. For instance, a video of her clearing out an infestation of bees from her truck, posted three weeks ago, has garnered over 804,000 views. Bees, though not yet endangered, are under threat due to the climate crisis. As bees play a critical role in pollination, infestation removals that promote their health and protection are an important way to maintain our earth's ecological balance. Therefore, her fans deeply appreciate Thompson's work. One user commented, "Seriously I could watch this all day. Thank you for saving the bees."
Despite this, some beekeepers have criticized Thompson for her unsafe practices. For example, a beekeeper from L.A. Honeybee Rescue condemned the TikToker for not wearing protective gear, wearing her hair loose rather than tying it up, and not showing her viewers the entire process of a bee removal (such as scoping out an infestation before going in with bare hands). In a series of videos posted to TikTok, she slammed Thompson and accused her of staging the removals, stating, "I am straight-up calling her out... All of us female removal specialists, we see you... We know you're faking."
Others have agreed with her. For example, a member of Reddit's beekeeping community posted in response, "Oh my God, thank you for saying what I have been thinking for months! That Texas woman's videos are so scripted and edited. And some [new beekeeper] is gonna get badly hurt or die from watching that nonsense and thinking it's real life and they can do it too." Meanwhile, Thompson's viewers do not see the problem with her content; "Why does she need to show power tool use?" One Twitter user wrote. "She's cutting out the boring parts and getting straight to the action."
Just weeks ago, a swarm of bees left someone dead in Stephens County, Texas, where killer bees are more than common. Their venom can lead to kidney failure in humans. L.A. Honeybee Rescue was reported and suspended from TikTok for her videos, but her account has since been reinstated. In a follow-up, she stated, "My point is that she's got this schtick that she's doing… And boom, 5.5 million followers and a lot of people in danger."