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TikTok Is Buzzzzing With Sweet, Sweet Bee Drama

Save the bees! Photo: Texas Bee Works via TikTok

Bee TikTok has officially migrated to Twitter, going viral with videos by @texasbeeworks, Erika Thompson, where she scoops up bees with her bare hands like a Snow White of insects, relocates massive honeybee swarms with her blonde hair down, and sometimes has a spare queen riding in her chest pocket. With more than 6 million followers on TikTok, Thompson, who owns and operates Texas Beeworks, has garnered hundreds of millions of views and even collaborated with stars like Jason Derulo, whom she encourages to take off his veil and eat fresh honeycomb with bees on it. “It was another great day of saving the bees,” she finishes each of her videos. Not today. Other beekeepers and entomologists are starting to take issue with the viral clips, which often show Thompson interacting with bees with little to no protection. They also question just how much “saving” she’s actually doing by relocating non-native honeybees to her own apiary, with some going so far as to accuse Thompson and her husband of staging bee rescues. “I’m 100% okay with her showing how docile swarms are, but the fact is that she goes into removals without wearing any safety gear, wearing black leggings, a black tank top, and a dark blue shirt that’s unbuttoned overtop and knotted,” one TikToker @lahoneybeerescue says in a video series. “She’s setting a very dangerous precedent.” Get stuck on all the drama in the bee community below.

So, she beez in the trap? Let her make her money, honey!
It’s not that simple. As a now-viral creator who does include educational information about bees in their videos, Texas Beeworks has the power to influence how their viewers interact with bees in real life, and that can be life-threatening. In a May 22 series, TikToker and bee professional @lahoneybeerescue notes that it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between killer bees and less defensive bees without antagonizing them, something Texas Beeworks does not show in their videos. Bees are also reactive toward dark colors, like black and brown, making Thompson’s all-black uniform a dangerous example to follow. According to the beekeeping website bee hour, bees evolved to defend their hive from wild animals who usually have dark fur. This is why beekeeper suits are all white. And, of course, exposed skin risks stings. Basically, the masses should not think they can interact with a bee hive in the same clothes they wore to Target. As a result, @lahoneybeerescue accused Texas Beeworks of being “fake.” “You can come in the comments and bitch at me and say that I shouldn’t be coming after other women and I’m not supporting her and whatnot,” they say. “No. I’m straight up calling her out and saying what you do is fake.” The videos were taken down after fans reported their account but were reuploaded to Twitter. @lahoneybeerescue has since had their account restored.

How do you fake picking up bees with your bare hands? 
Thompson is accused of sedating bees to make them easier to handle, having her husband pre-cut pieces of honeycomb, and staging the swarm removals, all making it easier for her to go viral with unsafe practices. Texas Beeworks hasn’t responded themselves, though another video of @lahoneybeerescue has surfaced where they also aren’t using protective gear to handle bees but have short hair and is seen in white. It’s unclear if they were aware of the species. “Even if she’s going in with the suit and doing the entire removal herself, she then takes off the suit and poses as bee removal Barbie, holding little bits of comb, wearing inappropriate clothes with her hair down, and it’s fake,” LAHBR says in another video from May. “She’s faking the job. That’s not what it looks like.”

Are they actually saving bees?
Using a honeybee relocation service rather than an exterminator does save bee lives. But according to entomologist and TikToker @entomologyabby, in order to actually protect and support all bees and their work in our environment, you have to do more than save honeybees. Honeybees, killer or otherwise, are not native to the United States and are mainly used for agricultural purposes because they can destabilize native bee species who are already at risk of extinction, per Scientific American. “However, this company claims to ‘preserve, protect, and increase bee populations across’ Texas without ever mentioning supporting our native bees on their website or TikTok,” @entomologyabby says in a video. “Does that mean this company doesn’t support native bees? Not necessarily, no. But relocating pest hives alone isn’t saving the bees.”

Only saving the colonizer bees? Quite interesting. Is she really a Trump supporter?
There’s no evidence online to support that, even on her Instagram where she follows the president and vice-president. But would it really be a shock for a white woman from Texas to be a Trump supporter? The truth might just sting.

Has Erika Thompson responded to the accusations?
In a June 4 comment on @entomologyabby’s TikTok, Thompson maintained that when she relocates colonies, she’s saving bees. “For the past 4 years, I’ve worked to get legislation passed to protect bees & all pollinators,” she replied on Friday. “Even testified in March at the Capitol on HB520 [a proposed Texas bill to plant roadside habitats for native pollinators].” On June 5, she addressed “the series of untrue and hurtful attacks” in a statement on Instagram. “It’s a sad day when people see a woman doing something that’s so outside of the norm, they assume there’s no way she can actually be doing those things, and if she is, she must be getting help from a man,” she wrote on June 5, adding, “As a professional beekeeper, it’s my mission and my purpose to help people understand and appreciate the work of bees and beekeepers, and I’d really like to get back to doing that now.”

TikTok Is Buzzzzing With Sweet, Sweet Honeybee Drama