Bee venom is produced in the bee’s venom gland and stored in the venom sack. A full sack contains approx. 0.3 mg of venom. The stinger is a special appendage located at the bee’s rear. When feeling threatened, bees will pull out the sting and stick it into the skin or epidermis of the perceived attacker, injecting their venom. The stinger is strongly barbed and gets lodged in the skin; the bee manages to fly away from the danger but the stinger and the venom sack remain stuck in the skin, leaving the bee badly injured.
The venom is released into the body via the stinger. The main components in the venom are:
- Melittin – a protein consisting of 26 amino acids, which accounts for 50 % of the dry weight of the venom;
- Apamin – a protein consisting of 18 amino acids, which accounts for 3 % of the dry weight of the venom;
- Phospolipase – this enzyme accounts for 14 % of the dry weight of the venom;
- Hyaluronidase – this enzyme accounts for 2 % of the dry weight of the venom;
- Histamine – accounts for 0.1 % of the dry weight of the venom;
- Two alkaline polypeptides – in minute amounts.
Bee venom also contains other chemical components but they are still subject to scientific research. However, the evidence gathered so far seems to support centuries old claims that bee venom has certain health-promoting properties. These claims are based on folk medicine and the healing expertise of physicians from millennia ago.