Erika Thompson is such a skilled beekeeper that it’d be fair to call her a bona fide bee whisperer.
The Texas native is the founder of Texas Beeworks, a beekeeping company that aims to preserve and increase honey bee populations in her home state, and she’s recently gone viral for a series of fearless TIkTok videos that put her skills on display.
Thompson’s most recent post has racked up over 60 million views in just four days and shows the beekeeper gently transporting a colony of 50,000-60,000 honey bees from a backyard shed to a new hive. It’s a routine task, but social media users are in awe of one little detail from the video: Thompson isn’t wearing any gloves or protective gear.
In the short clip, the beekeeper gently scoops a group of bees from one hive to the other and saves them from their original fate — extermination.
In another recent video, Thompson saves a bee who’d ventured outside her hive on a cold winter day.
On Wednesday morning, Thompson told TODAY why she typically handles bees without any protective gear.
“The beekeeping gear is big and bulky and I lose a lot of dexterity and mobility, which is really important when you’re working with these tiny creatures,” she said. “So if I can, it is my preference to wear (as little) gear (as) possible.”
Thompson is quickly becoming the queen bee of TikTok, but many people, including the TODAY anchors, are wondering how she does her work without gear and doesn’t get stung.
“Most honey bees are very gentle. They’re docile and they don’t want to sting you. I’ve been doing this for a long time and over the years I’ve learned to read the bees’ behavior and these were just very calm, gentle bees. They were also very cooperative and got into their new hive. This was just one case where I could work without gear and it was safer for me and the bees,” she said.
Honey bees tend to be gentle, but Thompson explained that there are over 20,000 species of bees in the world, so people should always consult a beekeeper if they think they might have bees living in their home.
Thompson described her now-viral video as a “very ordinary day on the job” and was happy to explain just what it feels like to hold a bunch of honey bees in your hands.
“It doesn’t make me nervous. I’ve been seeing so many comments about how calm I am and I think there’s just no other way to be when you’re working alongside a colony of bees or holding them in your hand, which feels incredible,” she said. “It feels like trust and acceptance and I just feel so privileged to be able to work with them.”
While offering some insight into bees, Thompson revealed that she tends to avoid eating bananas when she’s working, explaining that the scent can cause colonies to become a bit more aggressive. She also shared a fun fact about her marriage: She met her husband on the dating app Bumble.
“He was my first and only Bumble date. I am the luckiest person in the world, he’s wonderful,” she said.