A Painful Mixture

honeybee sting

Reproductive sytem of a honeybee in the process of detaching after stinging
Photo: Kathy Keatly Garvey

Bee venom is complex with at least 10 polypeptides present. I posted last time about the pain inducing effects of melittin. What do the other peptides do? Like melittin, apamin, mast-cell degranulating peptide, and a PLA2-related peptide caused inflammatory responses when injected into lab rats. The animals responded by flinching their paws in the area of injection for a brief period but considerably shorter than the response to melittin that lasts 1 hour. Apamin and melittin created hypersensitivity to heat and mechanical stimulus. Apamin effects lasted only briefly. The effects of melittin lasted 48 h. It appears that some of the other peptides have similar effects to melittin and contribute to the short term pain produced by the bee sting. Bees have multiple enemies and some peptides may be more effective against some enemies than others. Short term pain is important for immediate protection. However, the longer period of pain caused by melittin will make the experience more memorable.

Jun Chen, Su-Min Guan, Wei Sun & Han Fu. Melittin, the Major Pain-Producing Substance of Bee Venom. Neurosci. Bull. June, 2016, 32(3):265–272.
DOI 10.1007/s12264-016-0024-y

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal, Health. Bookmark the permalink.

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