The Beekeeper's Perspective
One reason why more people do not engage in the hobby and profession of beekeeping is that bees are frightening, or may seem so. A small proportion of the population will have a specific phobia, which may or may not have developed after a specific traumatic experience (or lack of experience/opportunity to engage with bees in the natural environment), but will almost certainly have had its onset in childhood. Interestingly, many people are able to adapt their phobic reactions in the presence of children, because it is well-known children can exhibit fear after seeing a display from their elders. The peak ages for developing phobias are 2-6 and the early teenage years. This is when people are making career decisions and developing other aspects of their identity. A simple phobia may influence work in the field, as in those who want to be doctors or veterinarians but cannot stand blood. Some beekeepers treat their bees like their children, and very often may not appear to be sympathetic and understanding to phobic reactions. They may believe their bees can't possibly hurt anyone, having thought it through rationally with their experience. It is important not to exclude the possibility that some beekeepers may also have a current phobia, or have successfully overcome their phobia.
The Phobic's Perspective
(This is a first-person description of common fears that a person exposed to bees could have, and is thus hypothetical. Keep in mind that many fears have not a specific trigger.) Bees are dangerous. Their sting could kill me and I might have an allergic reaction. I might avoid everything to do with bees-in an extreme circumstance I will avoid consuming Manuka honey, even though I know it is good for my sore throat and general functioning. I have terrible pictures in my mind-indeed everything I see, hear, taste, smell and touch which reminds me of bees creates a reaction in my nervous system, which makes me want to die. I even avoid gardens and flowers, and try to buy dull flowers for my garden. The flowers don't get pollinated, so I have a really shocking garden as the flowers didn't grow. I just can't get over the sight of my cousin being stung by a bee. She was four. She was defenseless.
The medical perspective
Psychologists and psychiatrists usually take care of phobias. Two treatments, both relatively brief, are effective for phobias. These include the guiding principles of desensitization and exposure. Beekeepers in particular should be aware that exposure is seldom good without desensitization, and normally specific goals are in mind before this process is applied. Family and friends are usually good at accommodating anxiety-producing situations, unless they seriously interfere with life. Phobias are usually best dealt with when the person is calm, and indirect, neutral surroundings are generally used in the first stage. For example, somebody who has a mild to moderate bee phobia could be encouraged by her therapist to read this Wikibook, knowing that the bees are treated in a caring and sensitive manner. Therapy focuses on modifying cognitions (thinking - for example: Bees are dangerous all the time, in all circumstances) and affective reaction (emotion - for example: I just can't get over the sight of my cousin...She was defenseless), to see whether they are rational or not (obviously, the effect on the garden may not be entirely rational, but the possibility of the allergic reaction may be). The fear of bees is called apiphobia. You as a beekeeper are entitled to ask for a medical certificate, and simple information may be released if the phobic consents. If a friend or relative has this phobia, tread especially carefully. Make sure your bees are well controlled. Many phobias are worse in a crowd, reflecting the fact that bees and humans are social animals. The first principle of the beekeeper may be akin with the one of the doctor: "First do no harm". If you can assure the phobic you are doing no harm in your livelihood, you will significantly reduce her fear and anxiety. Often people who used to be afraid of bees are your greatest converts and assets, and it is important to keep their concerns in mind, so your hive is a safe and happy place to be.