TikTok is abuzz after beekeeping influencer is accused of not working towards appropriate security protocols
Erika Thompson, the woman featured on the account, does not wear any of the equipment commonly associated with beekeeping, such as a bee suit or gloves. Instead, she calmly rearranges bees with her hands while a speaker explains her process.
The Austin, Texas beekeeper has gone viral with 6 million followers and 80 million likes to be alone on TikTok and even helps singer Jason Derulo remove a beehive from his house.
But Friday Chamberlain, who goes on LA HoneyBee Rescue’s TikTok and says they are a specialist in bee removal, said Thompson’s videos actually set a “dangerous precedent” for safe bee management and care.
In a series of TikTok videos, Chamberlain says that Thompson’s videos show all of the things someone shouldn’t do while beekeeping, like wearing dark colors which could lead to bee attacks or leaving their hair open, which can trap bees and sting could cause the neck or the face. “I 100% agree that it shows how docile crushes are,” Chamberlain said in a video. “But the fact is, she’s getting dressed without safety gear, wearing black leggings … she’s setting a very dangerous precedent.”
In an interview with CNN, Chamberlain, who has been working with bees since 2002, stated that the videos were originally intended only for their small followers and that the videos were not intended to be blown up. Still, removing bees is far from the safe task that Thompson calls it, Chamberlain said.
“Your work really affects all of us, the perception of the job, the perception of the ease, the danger,” said Chamberlain. “It got up and I thought ‘enough is enough’. That is the reality of their job. What she does is content creation. What she’s doing for honeybees is fantastic – she’s working on pesticide laws and so on – but she’s not a bee removal specialist. “
In a statement to CNN on Monday, Thompson said, “As a professional beekeeper, it is my mission and goal to help people understand how important the work of bees and beekeepers is to our world. The content I’m sharing is real and shows how beekeepers help people and bees in need on a daily basis – and wear protective clothing when necessary. Only experienced beekeepers should handle bees and remove bees. ”
In an earlier statement posted on Instagram Saturday, Thompson addressed the controversy, calling the allegations “untrue and hurtful”. It is probably a good thing that humans have a healthy fear of bees. We should respect them – they can be very hurtful to people. “People who lend a hand.” Barbara Baer-Imhoof, assistant pollinator health specialist at the Center for Integrative Bee Research at the University of California Riverside, told CNN that the university is beginning Beekeepers are always taught to wear full suits with veils, gloves and boots covering their ankles, and even veterans, she said, should wear full suits when approaching foreign colonies for the first time.
“Personally, I wouldn’t approach a colony that I don’t know without wearing a full suit,” says Baer-Imhoof, who has been working with honey bees since 2005. “At Riverside this is how you dress and this is how you teach responsible beekeeping.”
If she was familiar with a beehive, Baer-Imhoof said that depending on the job, she might only wear a half-veiled suit and go without the gloves. But that was only after several years of experience.
“Honey bees are wild animals,” she explained. “Beehives have different personalities; you don’t know who you will meet or what mood the beehive will be in.”
Much like Baer-Imhoof, Ashley Ralph, president of the Texas Beekeepers Association, told CNN that professional beekeepers sometimes wear less protective gear when they are familiar with the beehive. Thompson seems familiar with the bees, she said, and her choice of equipment is “entirely hers”.
“Erika’s approach has a place to gain new eyes and ears who could become bee advocates or even beekeepers,” said Ralph. “At TBA we talk about protective equipment and the risk of beekeeping because we fear that without the risk of bees, in the long run, we could do more harm to honey bees and beekeepers by doing irresponsible or even hands off beekeeping practices that lead to bad bees or Bee experiences lead. “
Still, apart from the allegations, Ralph said Chamberlain had “made some solid cautionary points to the general public”.
“Let the professionals take care of the bees removal,” Ralph said. “The grasping of bees could sting you.”