A video of a woman wearing dark clothing while scooping bees with her bare hands has gone viral on TikTok.
Erika Thompson, the woman featured on the account texasbeeworks is not seen wearing any of the gear commonly associated with beekeeping, like a bee suit or gloves. Instead, she calmly relocates bees with her hands, while a voice-over narrator explains her process.
The beekeeper in Austin, Texas, has become a viral star, with 6 million followers and 80 million likes on TikTok alone, even helping singer Jason Derulo remove a beehive from his home.
But Friday Chamberlain, who goes by LA Honey Bee Rescue on TikTok and says they’re a bee removal specialist, said Thompson’s videos actually set a “dangerous precedent” on how to safely interact with and take care of bees.
In a slew of TikTok videos, Chamberlain says Thompson’s videos show all the things someone shouldn’t do while beekeeping, like wearing dark colors, which could lead to bee attacks, or leaving her hair down, which could trap bees and lead to stings on the neck or face.
“I’m 100% OK with her showing how docile swarms are,” Chamberlain said in one video. “But the fact is that she goes into removals without wearing any safety gear, wearing black leggings … she’s setting a very dangerous precedent.”
Addressing the controversy Thompson said in statement: “As a professional beekeeper, it’s my mission and my purpose to help people understand how important the work of bees and beekeepers is to our world. The content I share is real, and shows how beekeepers help people and bees in need every day—wearing protective gear when necessary. Only experienced beekeepers should be handling bees and performing bee removal services.”
In an earlier statement posted to Instagram on Saturday, Thompson addressed the controversy, calling the accusations “untrue and hurtful.”