The aim of this study was to assess the inhibitory effect of whole bee venom (BV) on adjuvant-induced arthritis in the rat. Rats were divided into pre-apitherapy, post-apitherapy and control experimental groups. The pre-apitherapy group was subcutaneously stung with a honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) and the control group was subcutaneously injected with 0.1 ml of physiological saline solution one day prior to complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) injection. The post-apitherapy group was subcutaneously stung with a honeybee on day 14 after CFA injection. When arthritis had developed in the rat, the post-apitherapy group was subcutaneously administered whole BV every other day for a further 14 days. Clinical signs, hematological values and radioglogical features were observed during the entire experimental period. In the pre-apitherapy group, the development of inflammatory edema and polyarthritis was inhibited. Significant differences in lameness score, hind paw edema volume and radiological features were observed between control and pre-apitherapy rats. White blood cell counts indicated that the degree of leucocytosis was significantly different between the pre-apitherapy and control groups (p < 0.01). Inflammatory edema, polyarthritis and bone change into the right hind paw were effectively inhibited in pre-apitherapy rats during the two-week period post-CFA injection. In conclusion, whole BV was found to inhibit arthritic inflammation and bone changes in the rat. This may be an alternative treatment for arthritis in humans.