When people think about products that bees produce they often think of honey and beeswax, but bees also make other products such as royal jelly and propolis. Benefits of each of these products can be seen inside the beehive and outside the hive.
Let’s start with honey since this is what most people are interested in when they start a honey bee farm. Honey is the sweet stuff that bees make to feed the hive. When foraging bees are out collecting, they either collect nectar or pollen. If the bee is collecting nectar she stores the nectar in her nectar “sacs” until they are full. If she gets hungry while out collecting, she can open a valve in her stomach and some of the nectar can be used for her own sustenance.
Once she has all the nectar she can hold, she returns to the hive and passes off the nectar to the honey making bees. The bees continue to pass the nectar from one bee to another until the water content has been reduced to about 20%. Once the water has been reduced, the honey gets put into an empty honeycomb cell and capped. Now it is ready for the hive to use.
Inside the hive, the honey is mixed with pollen and used to feed the newborns. The bees also use the honey to feed the whole hive when they are not able to go out and collect nectar. Therefore, it’s super important for the beekeeper to leave the bees plenty of honey when harvesting. If they don’t have enough honey to feed the hive through the winter, they won’t survive.
Outside the hive, honey is a wonderful sweetener. Honey that is raw, which means it hasn’t been heated and filtered, has enzymes that actually help you digest the honey. Raw honey also has some anti-microbial properties and can be used in wound care, to soothe sore throats, in skin care products and to help with stomach ulcers.
Beeswax is another commonly known product that bees make. The worker bees have special wax glands on their abdomens. The workers eat honey and their bodies convert the sugars in the honey into wax. The wax oozes out of small pores on their abdomens in small flakes. The bees chew the wax to make it soft enough to mold and then they add the chewed wax to the building of the honeycomb.
Of course, inside the hive the honeycomb is used for holding honey. But it’s also used for the queen to lay her eggs and for the workers to raise the brood. The honeycomb takes a while to build and the bees need to eat quite a bit of honey to make it. This is why most beekeepers will try to keep from damaging or harvesting much beeswax.
There are also many beeswax uses outside of the hive. One of the first beeswax projects people do is learn how to make beeswax candles. Beeswax can also be used in salves and balms, home projects such as wood wax or conditioner, and art projects such as resist painting.
Royal Jelly Uses
The nurse bees produce a highly nutritious substance called Royal Jelly from a gland near their head. They feed the Royal Jelly to all the larvae for a couple of days, but they feed Royal Jelly to the queen for her entire life. This is why it’s called Royal Jelly.
Many people consume Royal Jelly for health reasons as it contains protein, trace minerals, and vitamins (particularly B vitamins).
Propolis is a super-sticky substance bees make by mixing saliva and beeswax with tree resin that has been gathered on foraging trips. When cold, propolis is hard and brittle. When warm, propolis is bendable and gooey.
Propolis is used in the hive to seal any cracks or holes because it acts very much like bee glue. Propolis benefits the hive as it helps with the structural stability, reduces alternate entrances, prevents intruders from entering the hive, and reduces vibration. Propolis is also used to keep the hive sanitary. Whenever an intruder enters the hive, the bees will sting it to death and then remove it from the hive. However, if the intruder is large, such as a lizard or mouse, they can’t remove it. To keep the carcass from decomposing in the hive, the bees will cover it in propolis. The propolis acts as a mummifying agent and keeps the hive sterile and tidy.
Outside the hive, there are many propolis benefits. Like other bee products, propolis benefits include antimicrobial properties. Propolis is used in cosmetic and medicinal skin care products such as ointments and creams, throat lozenges, nasal sprays, and toothpaste. Propolis can also be found in items such as chewing gum, car waxes, and wood varnishes. Many people make a propolis tincture as it’s more convenient than taking raw propolis.
Do you use bee products other than honey? Have you explored the many propolis benefits? Let us know in the comments below.