Researchers from Curtin's School of Molecular and Life Sciences in Australia recently revealed that ecological and behavioral factors influence the quality of bee venom. This is a widely recognized product as an effective treatment for degenerative and infectious diseases like osteoarthritis and Parkinson's Disease.

Lead researcher of this study was Dr. Daniela Scaccabarozzi from Curtin's. She is also a research consultant at ChemCentre. According to Scaccabarozzi, this research will be beneficial to human health as well as to the lucrative beekeeping industry, where bee venom can sell for up to $300 per gram.

For the first time ever, the study analyzed protein diversity in bee venom that was collected from domesticated western honeybees (Apis mellifera ligustica) in 25 hives, during flowering season from Corymbia Calophylla (Marri) ecosystem, near Harvey in south-west Australia. The study was published in PLOS ONE.

In this unrelated 3:13-minute video by Natural Cures we see some health benefits attributed to bee venom:



Dr. Scaccabarozzi revealed that they found there to be 99 bee venom proteins, of which only one-third had previously been identified. The more proteins that were found in the bee venom, the higher its quality and potential effectiveness.

The research team wanted to understand what drivers impacted the protein diversity of the bee venom, so they studied a wide range of factors, including bee behavioral patterns.

The association between docile and active bees was a compelling behavioral factor. ‘Angry bees’ reacted intensively to stimulating devices and produced richer and more protein-dense bee venom.  

The quantity of bee venom released by bees depends on the alarm pheromone secretion that provokes other bees to sting and react aggressively. This might be due to changing genetics that can provoke bees to be aggressive.

The team also confirmed that the protein composition of bee venom is impacted by temperature and seasonal factors. The team tested 25 hives and discovered that the higher the temperatures were, the lower the bee venom production was. The best temperature range for high protein diversity is in the 33-36 degrees Celsius range.

Geographical location impacts the bee venom composition as well, and the stage the flowers were at during harvest when the bees consumed them.

Dr. Scaccabarozzi said that more research will help beekeepers to collect a standardized quality of venom so the growing demand for it in clinical and therapeutic fields can be met. It will also help create cost-effective strategies for bee venom harvesting to secure its position in the global market.