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I recall reading (courtesy: my 9th grade Chemistry text-book, chapter Acids, Bases and Salts), something along the lines of:

Bee venom is acidic. This is why the area of skin (stung by a bee) is treated (first-aid) by the topical application of a sodium bicarbonate paste. This method works by neutralization of the acidic venom.

The problems with this theory? I see three:

Firstly,

A honeybee's stinger can grow to be as long as 3mm. If bee venom were acidic, then how would the baking-soda paste neutralize it (entirely) by simply applying it on the surface?

Secondly,

Wikipedia provides the composition of honeybee venom;

Melittin

Apamin

Adolapin

Phospholipase A2

Hyaluronidase

Histamine

Dopamine and Noradrenaline

Tertiapin

As far as I know...none of these are actual acids, instead, they're pretty much all proteins. Which appears to seriously contradict the popular "Bee venom is acidic" notion.

Thirdly,

Some sources (online) suggest that application of vinegar (which is acidic) also relieves the pain. Additionally, even meat tenderizers (proteases), toothpaste and wet aspirin tablets seem to do the trick.


So I'll break up my question into two bits (to hopefully, make it easier to answer):

1) Is honeybee venom acidic? If so, what substance present in it is responsible for the "acidic" nature of the venom?

2) Why does applying baking-soda (paste) relieve the pain? Does it somehow denature/"neutralize" the venom?

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  1. Honeybee venom is acidic. It contains formic acid, also known as $\ce{HCOOH}$. However,

  2. Rubbing baking soda probably isn't really reducing the pain because

    • The formic acid isn't causing the pain
    • The venom is injected under tissue
    • The ratio of venom to baking soda is way out of proportion

For more information, visit this website.

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    $\begingroup$ @Javascripter One interesting point in your linked webpage "applying hot water to coagulate the venom".. Ha... Ha.. $\endgroup$ – Mockingbird Jul 2 '17 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for taking the time to post an answer! A tip on formatting though: For emphasis, you can italicize words or put them in bold; typing it out in UPPERCASE however, as you did with "IS", can sometimes yield other (more dubious) meanings ;) $\endgroup$ – paracetamol Jul 2 '17 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Mocking Yeah...which is pretty much why I'm not (completely) buying what that site says :D $\endgroup$ – paracetamol Jul 2 '17 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ As para shown it doesn't contain HCOOH, it's only "formic" not "beeic" acid. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Jul 2 '17 at 15:51

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