The beekeeping community is abuzz with drama.
Though TikTok has been dominated by the likes of Addison Rae and Charli D'Amelio, there are those whose For You page is full of videos from BeeTok. Some of the short clips include footage of people harvesting honey, while others reveal how beekeepers remove hives from homes and other places occupied by humans.
Erika Thompson, who owns the business Texas Bee Works, is one content creator who has thrived thanks to the TikTok algorithm, garnering more than 6 million followers since launching her account last summer. The videos of Thompson scooping bees into boxes and saving the queen bee in her jeans and denim button-up shirts get millions of views, and have led to collaborations with stars like Jason Derulo.
She's so successful, in fact, The Washington Post profiled her in March. She told the newspaper, "It's something I've been into my entire life."
TikTok user @lahoneybeerescue, however, argues that Thompson is not the expert she claims to be. According to since-deleted videos from May, which were captured by Twitter users, @lahoneybeerescue claims it's "dangerous" for Thompson to work with bees while "opening hives with her hair down [and] wearing dark clothes with exposed skin."
Bees are aggravated by dark colors, which is why beekeepers wear white suits instead of other colors. The suit is also meant to protect people from stings, whereas Thompson's casual outfits are ineffective at preventing injuries on the job.
@lahoneybeerescue also accuses Thompson of not actually rescuing the bees, claiming, "She shows herself removing comb which her husband has pre-cut for her very courteously—like I don't see her using power tools. I don't see her using ladders. Her husband goes in, cuts everything up for her."
"She looks really pretty doing it and that's because it's faked," the user explains. "I hate to say that because y'all are going to say I'm coming for her, but it's not."
However, Vice writes that Thompson began Texas Bee Works five years before she married her husband, Andrew Hollister. The outlet also reports Hollister's background is in real estate and investing, causing some doubt about whether he is really helping out Thompson behind the scenes.
Regarding Thompson's choice of clothing, Vice shares some insight into her decision making. She recently told the outlet, "The removals that went viral, those are some cases where I'm not wearing gear... But, you know, there are other cases where I am wearing gear. One of the things you don't see, maybe, in the one-minute TikTok videos—I'm in Texas, and it's incredibly hot. Sometimes these removals take 30 minutes; sometimes they take three hours or more. Beekeeping gear in general, it's big and it's bulky… It makes it a little bit more difficult to work with these tiny creatures who are very delicate."
On Saturday, June 5, Thompson addressed the "untrue and hurtful attacks" on her Instagram, calling the controversy a "false narrative."
"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 said. "Thank you to the mass of experienced beekeepers, leaders of the beekeeping community, and all of the beekeeping associations who were quick to come to my defense."
Thompson then acknowledged bees are dangerous creatures, writing, "Experienced beekeepers are the only ones who should be handling bees in these situations, because sometimes... bees need a helping hand."