Bees are very sensitive to the way people behave so if you act calmly rather than running around and slapping your hand around you are less likely to be stung or frighten a bee. However, the statement that bees can “smell fear” has been used in many cases and when taken literally is kind of silly. While smell does play a role in hive defense, the odor that the bees sense is not necessarily the “smell of fear” but the smell of something foreign that could possibly become a threat to the hive or the workers. Fear is defined as an emotion, an internal response that is generated by a being’s nervous system when it encounters a situation it perceives to be dangerous. The word smell however has been broadly defined in some cases as being a distinctive quality characterizing something.
It is very likely that the statement that animals or insects such as bees can “smell fear” developed from the idea that animals are able to sense if a nearby creature is acting strangely. As a result of an alarm response to this action, the bee uses pheromones to alert its members of the family group to the presence of an intruder or potential threat. In this manner, the “fear scent” produced by a honeybee worker does not provoke aggression by a predator; instead it functions to protect the hive and its other workers. The detection of a foreign odor by a honeybee worker may in fact be something that is enough to elicit an alarm secretion.
When this pheromone is released and the alarm excites other working bees in or near the hive, it attracts them to the source and thus, to the intruder. The secretion itself does not necessarily cause an attack however. The attack producing stimuli come from the intruder, whose behavior usually is what then guides the attack. It could be said then, that if an individual were to approach a bee hive, and his body odor since it is a foreign smell to the hive may sufficiently excite the bees, if the person than becomes afraid and begins to move about a lot, he is more likely to be attacked by bees.