The Wonderful World of Bees          

Bee Venom

The Bee Sting

During the stinging process bee venom is expressed through the sting apparatus. Bee venom is synthesized in the venom glands of the worker and queen honeybees and stored in their venom sacs.

Drones cannot sting whereas the worker and queen bee have a poison gland in their abdomen.  When the bee stings another insect, she can pull the stinger out and sting again. Often many times killing the insect.  However, when bees sting people or small animals (eg a mouse), the stinger sticks in the skin and keeps pumping poison.  As the bee flies away, her internal organs are pulled out.  She is torn in half and dies.

Bees only sting if they think they or their hive are in danger.  If one bee is buzzing around you, she may smell perfume, soap, or hair spray and think the smell is nectar (bee food).  Once they realise you are not food, the bee will fly away. However, if you go near their hive, bees will come out to attack you.

Bee Venom

Bee venom is a complex composition of enzymes, proteins and amino acids. There are at least 18 active components in the venom which have some pharmaceutical properties.

  • It is a colourless clear liquid.
  • It has a a sweet taste bit a little bitter.
  • It is soluble in water
  • It is insoluble in alcohol & ammonium sulphate.
  • If is comes in contact with air, it forms, opaque or grayish-white crystals.

Bee venom is haemorrhagic, differing from snake (viper) venom, which is a coagulant. Bee venom has the opposing action of inhibiting the nervous system, and stimulating the heart and the adrenal glands; the venom also contains the mineral substances, volatile organic acids, formic acid, hydrochloric acid, ortho-phosphoric acid.

Also present are some antibiotics, an enzyme – phospholipase A, as well as two amino acids rich in sulphur methionine and cystine. Sulphur is the main element in inducing the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands, and in protecting the body against infections.

Traditionally, bee venom was administered with live bees by stimulating them to sting in the affected area, trigger points or acupuncture points. The effect mechanism of the venom is not entirely know yet. Scientists believe there are two possible theories as to how bee venom works:  Either bee stings activate powerful immune responses in the body; or that bee venom stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, a hormone with anti-inflammatory properties.

Apitherapy - Bee Venom Therapy

Apitherapy is the use of beehive products, including honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, bee venom. Bee venom therapy is the part of apitherapy which utilizes bee venom in the treatment of health conditions. It has been used since ancient times to treat arthritis, rheumatism, back pain, skin diseases and in this modern age as an alternative therapy to treat multiple sclerosis.

Next to the effect of a live bee, injectable venom solution is considered to be a standard method to administer bee venom. However, there is discomfort associated with the administration of bee venom including pain, itching, swelling, inflammation and redness. Depending on the nature of the disease, there are alternative methods of achieving the possible health benefits of bee sting therapy, but without the pain. Bee venom can be used in a cream, liniment, or ointment.

The bee venom is applied for 4–5 days, followed by a 2-3 day break. Treatment is then re-commenced again. And when combined with an oral therapy, such as vitamin therapy or added to manuka honey, applying the venom topically provides a long-lasting effect and offers significant benefits in arthritic and rheumatic conditions.

Cautions: People with allergies to bee stings or bee products, people with tuberculosis, diabetes, atherosclerosis, venereal diseases and congenital heart diseases.