WHAT DO BEES PRODUCE OTHER THAN BEESWAX AND HONEY?
Now we know how hard worker bees toil collecting pollen to make honey and beeswax. What else do they produce? Let's take a look...
Propolis, otherwise known as ‘bee glue’, is a resinous substance that honey bees produce by mixing their saliva with beeswax and resins, like sap, collected from many botanical sources.
When foraging, worker bees mainly harvest pollen and nectar, but they also collect water and plant resins necessary for the production of propolis.
The word propolis is of Greek origin; pro meaning ‘for’ and polis meaning ‘city’. At the entrance to the hive, propolis is used to create a smaller, more defensible opening, protecting the hive from outside influences.
Propolis is used by the bees to line the inner surface of the hive which helps maintain the correct internal temperature for all that goes on in there. It is also used for reinforcement and as a sealant for unwanted open spaces.
Bees will usually remove any waste products from their hive. If a larger insect or small lizard, for example, enters the hive and dies there, it may be too big and heavy for the bees to remove. In this case, the bees would try to encase and seal the intruder with propolis to protect the hive from decomposition and subsequent contamination.
Within the hive, propolis can provide antifungal and antibacterial protection.
Propolis is widely used by humans for its health properties for the treatment of various conditions due to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, among many others.
Royal jelly is a fascinating bee product and there is still a lot of research to be done on it.
It is a thick, white, gelatinous substance secreted from a gland on the head of a female worker bee. It is made up of water, proteins, simple sugars, small quantities of Vitamin C, and various trace minerals and enzymes.
Royal jelly is named for the fact that it is the only food source, in the entire lifetime, of the queen bee.
It is only fed to all other bee larvae for the first two or three days after they hatch. Thereafter they are fed ‘bee bread’ (see below).
A lifetime diet of only royal jelly is thought to be the main reason for the longevity of the queen bee (4-5 years) compared to that of the other bees (5-7 weeks). When the royal jelly is fed to the worker larvae in their first few days it is consumed as it is produced, but the larger cells of queen bee larvae have a stockpile of royal jelly within them so the larvae can consume it faster.
When royal jelly is harvested by humans, it is collected from the specially constructed queen cells when the queen larvae are about four days old. This is the only place large amounts are found.
Royal jelly is a perishable product. After harvest, correct handling and storage procedures need to be followed to ensure the product remains viable. It is used by humans as a remedy, in both traditional and modern medicine for its antibacterial, anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory effects and more.
It truly is amazing stuff!
Bee bread is largely a mixture of pollen, honey, and nectar and is the basis of food in the hive (except the queen). It is also stored within the hive for future consumption. Bee bread is fed to the larvae after their first two to three days of royal jelly.
Some bee bread has shown antioxidant activity and effectiveness against many bacteria and fungi. Exploratory work on this compound continues.
Most of us know all about a bee sting - ouch! Bee venom, also known as apitoxin, is the clear liquid a bee injects us with through a stinger at the end of its abdomen. This is the bees defence mechanism, for themselves and their colony.
A bee sting can be painful and can lead to localised swelling or in extreme cases, a severe allergic reaction. Sadly, the bee dies after it has released the sting, however, bee venom is harvested by humans without harming them.
Bee venom has been successfully used for desensitisation to lessen severe allergic reactions in humans to bee stings. It has also been used to treat various health conditions such as chronic pain and rheumatoid arthritis, due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Many skincare products also include bee venom.
Apitherapy is a branch of alternative medicine using bee products, with a focus on bee venom, for both general health benefits and treatment of various health issues.
Note: Adverse reactions to bee venom products in a clinical testing setting are reasonably common ranging from mild to severe. Medical advice is recommended before using any product containing bee venom.