Advertisement
Share

Feuding beekeepers are TikTok’s latest viral sensation. Here’s the buzz on their beef

A swarm of bees on a honeycomb.
Beekeepers are disagreeing on TikTok over how to handle bees.
(Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

Social media is buzzing over an unexpected TikTok feud between a California beekeeper and a Texas beekeeper that has shaken the beekeeping community and bee-yond.

The so-called beekeeper beef, trending Thursday on Twitter, was sparked by viral videos posted by Texas beekeeper Erika Thompson (@texasbeeworks). Thompson, who boasts 6 million followers on TikTok, frequently documents her bee-removal expeditions in clips that have collectively amassed more than 70 million views on the platform.

While a slew of amateurs — impressed by the care and ease with which Thompson appears to handle the insects — often swarm the comment sections of her posts with awe and praise, at least one beekeeper from Los Angeles has since challenged Thompson’s controversial methods.

One brief clip, for example, shows Thompson calmly relocating a swarm of bees in need of a queen: “I started scooping bees off the umbrella and putting them into a hive,” Thompson narrates as she gently removes hundreds of bees from an umbrella with her bare hands.

“When bees are in swarms like this, it means they’re looking for a new place to live,” she explains. “They tend to be very docile, since they don’t have any resources to defend. They don’t have a hive or baby bees to protect, but they should have a queen.”

On June 10, 1879, Los Angeles lawmakers banned beekeeping within city limits.

Advertisement

Dressed casually in a pair of skinny jeans, a matching blouse and no visible protective gear, Thompson proceeds to repeat the process over and over, carefully inspecting each handful in search of a queen, but to no avail.

“This colony would not survive without a queen, but luckily, I had an extra one on me I could give them,” she says before nonchalantly removing a spare queen bee from her denim shirt pocket — at which point TikTok all but lost its hive mind.

“I waited a while longer for the bees to get in their new hive, then I loaded them into my truck and drove home,” Thompson says. “I put the bees in my apiary so they can continue the important work they do in a place that’s safer for them and for people, and it was another great day of saving the bees.”

In her TikTok bio, Thompson bills herself as a “Professional Beekeeper Saving Bees in Austin, TX.” But what Thompson presents as informative, heroic rescue missions have been condemned by another prominent TikTok beekeeper, @lahoneybeerescue, who appears to work for the West Hollywood-based organization LA Honeybee Rescue.

Six years ago, Tucson native and sommelier Noel Patterson began amateur beekeeping after receiving a hive as a gift from a skilled local apiarist.

In critical TikTok posts recently compiled and resurfaced by Twitter users, @lahoneybeerescue, whose name is not displayed on her profile, has accused Thompson of staging her beekeeping content and “setting a dangerous precedent” for interacting with potentially harmful insects.

“What she is doing — opening up hives with her hair down, wearing dark clothes with exposed skin — is dangerous,” @lahoneybeerescue says in one of the clips.

“I’m 100% OK with her showing how docile swarms are, but the fact is that she goes into removals without wearing any safety gear ... she’s not wearing thick pants or gaiters or work boots. She looks really pretty doing it, and that’s because it’s faked.”

In the same clip, @lahoneybeerescue criticizes Thompson’s long, blond hairstyle, which cascades down her back in all of her beekeeping videos. By contrast, @lahoneybeerescue sports a buzzcut to protect herself from bee stings.

“The reason I keep my hair short is so bees don’t get caught in it,” she explains. “If bees get caught in your hair, they sting. Every female beekeeper I know, they either cut their hair off or they put it up in a ponytail and scrape it into a bun so that bees don’t get tangled in their hair and sting them on the neck or face. I know what I know.

“You guys can say I have a bad attitude all you want. You can come in the comments and b— at me and say that ... I shouldn’t be coming after other women, and I’m not supporting her or whatnot. No. I’m straight up calling her out and saying what you do is fake. @texasbeeworks, I see you. We all see you. All of us female removal specialists, we see you. We know you’re faking.”

L.A. backyard beekeeping picking up buzz

The sudden rift in the online beekeeping community quickly transcended TikTok, as Twitter users also became invested in the niche quarrel by doing what Twitter does best: passing judgment and picking sides.

“me: okay today i’m going to be productive!! also me: spends an hour deeply immersed in tiktok beekeeper beef,” tweeted one person.

“i hope to one day find a subculture//activity that i’m passionate enough about to beef with my peers over,” mused another. “god bless the beekeeper drama, no idea who’s right/wrong and don’t honestly care i just salute the passion.”

Check out more takes on the beekeeper drama below.


Advertisement