Bee Products include More than just Honey! How many can you think of?

When people think about “what do bees make” most would say honey, but it doesn’t stop there. In fact, bees produce and collect many different elements that are the fruits of their labour. The 2 most common honey bees, Apis Mellifera & Apis Cerana respectively known as the European & Asian honey bee. We take a look at the many bee products and bi-products made from these bees. Click the bee product name below to see more information.

Honey is the complex substance made when the nectar and sweet deposits from plants and trees are gathered, modified and stored in the honeycomb by honey bees as a food source for the colony. All living species of bees have had their honey gathered by indigenous peoples for consumption. For commercial purposes, only the European honey bee & the Asian honey bee have been harvested substantially. Honey is sometimes also gathered by humans from the nests of various native stingless bees though this is typically in much smaller quantities.
Did you know… in 1911, a bee culturist estimated bees fly about 77,000 kilometers to gather the nectar needed to produce just 1 litre of honey.

Nectar, a liquid high in sucrose, is produced in plant glands known as nectaries. Nectar is usually high in moisture and this moisture is mostly evaporated by honey bees when they produce honey. Nectar plays an important energy resource for honey bees and plays a significant role in foraging economics and evolutionary differentiation between different subspecies. It was proposed through an experiment conducted with the African honey bee, A. m. Scutellata, that nectar temperature impacts the foraging decisions of honey bees. Nectar is a high source of carbohydrate in the bees diet.

Worker bees at a young age will secrete beeswax from a series of glands on their abdomens. They use this beeswax to form the walls and caps of the honeycomb. However, some beekeepers use plastic as a foundation or substitute for honeycomb. Just like the honey that bees produce, many people harvest beeswax for various purposes like candles, lip balms, creams, polish and conditioners just to name a few.

Bees collect pollen in their pollen basket and carry it back to the hive. However only the worker honey bee is equipped to do this task. The queen bee and the male (drone) bee do not collect pollen. In the bee hive pollen, is used as an essential source of protein to raise the bee brood. In some cases, excess pollen can be collected from the hives of A. Mellifera and A. Cerana. It is often eaten as a health supplement eaten in small amounts or even sprinkled on breakfast cereal for example. It also has been used with moderate success as a source of pollen for hand pollination however, pollen collected by bees and harvested for pollination must be used within a few hours because it loses its potency rapidly, possibly because of the effects of enzymes or other chemicals from the bees; hand-collected pollen may remain usable for weeks, if stored promptly under suitable conditions.

Rather than what the name would suggest, bee bread is not made of bees but it is made by the bees. Bee bread is essentially pollen collected by bees and packed into bee brood cells mixed with bee digestive fluids and nectar. The bees then seal these cells with honey and stored in the hive for later consumption. Bees do this because they do not consume pollen it’s raw form.

The word Propolis comes from Greek origin and means to defend the city. Propolis or bee glue is created from resins, balsams and tree saps. Some species of honey bees that nest in tree cavities use propolis to seal cracks in the hive. Often when a swarm of honey bees take up residence in a possum box or tree hollow, bees use prop[olis to make a small entrance to the hive. Dwarf honey bees use propolis to defend against ants by coating the branch from which their nest is suspended to create a sticky moat. Because of its’ high medicinal qualities, propolis is consumed by humans as a health supplement in various ways and also used in some cosmetics. Propolis is available in capsule form and even used as an ingredient in some toothpaste.

Royal jelly is a honey bee secretion that is used in the nutrition of larvae, as well as adult queens. The worker nurse bee secretes royal jelly from its’ hypopharynx glands. This is fed to the larvae of queen, worker and drone bees.

When worker bees decide to make a new queen, because the old queen is either weakening or dead, they choose several small female larvae and feed them with copious amounts of royal jelly in specially constructed cells. These cells are knows as queen cells and are much larger than a worker or drone cell. This type of feeding triggers the development of queen morphology, including the fully developed ovaries needed to lay eggs.

Royal jelly is secreted from the glands in the heads of worker bees, and is fed to all bee larvae, whether they are destined to become drones (males), workers (sterile females), or queens (fertile females). After three days, the drone and worker larvae are no longer fed with royal jelly, but queen larvae continue to be fed this special substance throughout their development. It is harvested by humans by stimulating colonies with movable frame hives to produce queen bees. Royal jelly is collected from each individual queen cell (honeycomb) when the queen larvae are about four days old. It is collected from queen cells because these are the only cells in which large amounts are deposited; when royal jelly is fed to worker larvae, it is fed directly to them, and they consume it as it is produced, while the cells of queen larvae are “stocked” with royal jelly much faster than the larvae can consume it. Therefore, only in queen cells is the harvest of royal jelly practical. A well-managed hive during a season of 5–6 months can produce approximately 500 grams of royal jelly. Since the product is perishable, producers must have immediate access to proper cold storage (e.g., a household refrigerator or freezer) in which the royal jelly is stored until it is sold or conveyed to a collection centre. To aid the royal jelly shelf life, sometimes honey or beeswax are added.

When a worker bee stings, it injects bee venom. This is used as a defense mechanism of the worker bee to protect itself or its’ colony. Also known as apitoxin, bee venom is a colourless, clear liquid containing proteins that can lead to localised inflammation or in extreme cases, severe allergic reaction. Bee venom has been used as an alternative medicine in apitherapy for some time for its’ benefits to health and to treat some illnesses. Many believe the benefits of bee venom are not supported by scientific evidence. Specially built machines are used to extract or milk bee venom from bees without harming the bee.

The wondrous powers of bees are being harvested from the air honey bees create in their beehives. It is becoming more popular now to see a natural therapist to include the ability to inhale the air created in the beehive. This is sometimes done by attaching a hose and mask to the cover of the beehive. The patient will then sit for sometime inhaling the air circulated in the hive. We can’t say we have ever tried inhaling beehive air directly with a mask but there seems to be good results for asthma sufferers. Plus, as any beekeeper will tell you the smell of a beehive especially when bees are on a honey flow, can be quite pleasant and unlike anything in nature.

save our bees logo represents a queen honey bee

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Become a Beekeeper

If you’ve ever considered becoming a beekeeper, the best thing you can do is join a club with like minded individuals who understand and look after bees. There are amateur beekeeping clubs in every corner of the world but if you’re in Sydney look at the Illawarra Beekeepers association. You can find out more about them by clicking the box below or contact us with any questions.