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Original Article


Allergy to Bee Venom in Beekeepers in Germany


K Münstedt,1 M Hellner,1 D Winter,2 R von Georgi 3,4

1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University Hospital Giessen and Marburg, Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany
2Medical Clinic and Policlinic 3, University Hospital Giessen and Marburg, Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany
3Institute of Medical Psychology and Sociology, Justus-Liebig University, Giessen, Germany
4Institute of Music Science, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany

J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 2008; Vol. 18(2): 100-105



Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the incidence of bee venom allergy in German beekeepers, to explore risk factors for bee venom allergy in this group, and to determine which factors best predicted severe reactions.

Methods: A questionnaire incorporating 2 instruments on beekeepers’ physical and mental health and working practice was included in 3 German beekeeping journals. A reference group also completed the questionnaire. Simple descriptive methods, bivariate correlation, cross-tabulation, 1-way analysis of variance, and stepwise discriminant analysis were used to analyze data.

Results: Altogether, 1053 questionnaires were returned. No signifi cant differences were seen between the 2 groups. The mean number of bee stings annually was 57.8 (median, 30; range, 0 – 1000). Overall, 46 (4.4 %) beekeepers reported systemic reactions to bee stings, 797 (75.6 %) had mild local reactions, and 196 (18.6 %) had no reactions. The study confi rmed several risk factors. These were, in descending order of importance, symptoms of upper respiratory allergy while working on the hive, presence of other allergies, time spent as a beekeeper, and more severe nonallergic reactions to bee stings in springtime. These factors identifi ed beekeepers at risk of allergic reactions to bee venom in 85.2 % of cases. Our results also showed an association between allergy and emotional instability. Risk management in allergic beekeepers was not good.

Conclusion: The results of this study will help to identify beekeepers at risk of systemic reactions to bee stings and to inform them about the dangers of bee venom allergy.

Key words: Bee venom. Allergy. Beekeeper. Beekeeping.