(also apitoxin), the secretion produced by the filamentous gland of the stinging apparatus of a worker bee.
Bee venom is a viscous colorless fluid with a characteristic odor and bitter taste. Its chemical composition has not been precisely determined. It contains a biologically active protein (melittin), enzymes (hyaluronidase and lecithinase A), free amino acids, histamine, formic and other acids, fats, steroidlike substances, essential oils, and certain trace elements. The glycoside of histamine, lipids, and substances closely related to saponins of animal origin are among the active substances of bee venom. The density of the venom is 1.131. Bee venom hardens rapidly in the air and dissolves readily in water and less readily in formic acid and a 60 percent alcohol solution. It is heat stable—freezing it or heating it up to 115°C does not change its properties. A bee secretes 0.2 to 0.3 mg of poison per sting; a lethal dose is 500 to 1,000 stings, or about 0.2 g.
Bee venom is anti-inflammatory and cholinolytic. Preparations of bee venom, such as Venapiolin, Toxapin, Apizartron, and Virapin, are applied in solutions and ointments or by means of electrophoresis to treat diseases of the joints, myosites, radiculites, neuralgias, hives, migraine, trophic ulcers, and thrombophlebitis. The use of bee venom is contraindicated with infectious diseases; diseases of the liver, kidneys, and blood; diabetes; cardiovascular diseases; and mental illnesses. Its use is to be avoided especially in cases where the individual is allergic to the venom.