Viral TikTok beekeeper sparks outrage over lack of safety equipment

 (TikTok/Erika Thompson)
(TikTok/Erika Thompson)

A viral TikTok bee-keeping star has sparked quite the buzz - but not in the way she intended.

Erika Thompson from Austin, Texas, creates videos rescuing bees from unwanted locations like water tanks, outdoor furniture and under floor boards. Her account has over six million followers and has won praise across the globe.

She often features celebrity clients on her videos, such as Jason Derulo, and is known for forgoing the traditional face covering and white suit, opting to wear just causal clothes, such as a tank top and leggings.

But while her compelling clips have brought bee keeping to the general public, she’s now attracting even more attention for her relationship with fellow keepers.

Rival bee stars have circled on the popular figure claiming she is portraying a false impression to her legion of fans.

A fellow beekeeper known as @LAHoneyBeeWorks called her out for ‘dangerous’ practices.

“What she’s doing, going and opening hives with her hair down, wearing dark clothes with exposed skin, is dangerous.”

Another user claimed she was faking the work.

@diligenda tweeted: “Texas bee works (the bee lady) is a tr*mp supporter and apparently the way she handles the bees is very dangerous and bee removal specialist are v angry with her because this can k!ll people”.

However, others are defending her against the critics.

One bee specialist explained to NBC News that Ms Thompson seemed to have a good handle on managing bees and protective gear was up to each individual.

“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,” said Martha Kiene, president of the Virginia State Beekeeping Association.

And Ms Thompson herself has admitted that her most viral videos don’t show a rounded picture and often she does wear gear if the case needs it.

She has not publicly commented on the criticism and did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

However, previous profiles suggest Ms Thompson’s love of bees is anything but fake.

Speaking to The Washington Post, who profiled her in March, she revealed her fascination began in childhood.

“I spent a lot of time in my backyard on nights and weekends, trying to collect bugs and put them in jars … to keep them and care for them,” she said. “It’s something I’ve been into my entire life.”

Other Twitter users were in awe of Ms Thompson, tweeting, “Saving the bees... ...with bare hands..”

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