A video on TikTok has gone viral for accusing a beekeeping “influencer” of misleading her viewers about how she handles bee removal and promotes unsafe practices when handling a hive.
TikTok user @LAHoneyBeeRescue claims that Erika Thompson (@TexasBeeWorks on TikTok) is improperly handling bees in her videos and setting a dangerous precedent for her six million followers.
“@LAHoneyBeeRescue says in the video, “TexasBeeWorks doesn’t carry ladders, doesn’t carry power tools. Her husband does all of that and then poses her in situations.” LAHoneyBeeRescue went on to say that, “She is a beekeeper, she’s not a bee removal specialist. And a guy in Texas just died by mowing his lawn next to a hollow tree that had an Africanized hive in it because in Texas, the bees are much more dangerous than they are here. So, what she does is dangerous. Sorry.”
@LAHoneyBeeRescue’s TikTok bio reads: “IMPORTANT: Do not attempt any of this without a beekeeper and gear!”
Thompson, who has been profiled in The Washington Post and owns her own beekeeping company in Austin, Texas, has created quite a-buzz as a bee influencer on TikTok. Her videos usually do, in fact, feature her with her hair down, wearing dark and tight clothing and with her bare hands while handling the bees. Paired with an ASMR-style of voiceover explaining what she’s doing, Thompson’s videos have received over 80 million likes.
@LAHoneyBeeRescue, whose account has 29,000 followers, claimed that it’s actually Thompson’s husband who does most of the work behind the scenes. By making it seem like it’s okay to handle bees as she has been, LAHoneyBeeRescue says that her lack of safety gear is setting “a very dangerous precedent.” Though she admits to her looking pretty removing the bees, “it’s faked.”
A few of Thompson’s videos do show her wearing a beekeeping veil and helmet, but no gloves.
Per NBC News, Martha Kiene, president of the Virginia State Beekeepers Association, said that while bees are typically attracted to dark colors, like the ones Thompson sometimes wears, she sees no issue with how Thompson handles bees.
“I have seen the Texas beekeeper before. She’s very, very impressive because she’s fearless. She handles the bees fine. She’s doing a cut-out. A removal … she’s doing it humanely and carefully,” Kiene said.
Kiene said that in Texas, there are Africanized bees, which can be aggressive. Because of this, Kiene prefers to gear up by wearing a jacket and veil before handling those bees. “I just caution anyone that if they think ‘Oh yeah, that would be a good thing. I could go in there and do that’ — only a very experienced beekeeper would go in there without protection,” Kiene said. “But as far as handling the bees, she handles the bees gently and calmly and very bravely.”