More than just honey: Other products you can get from bees
How one little insect can create many different products
Bees are incredible. Not only are they vital to the survival of the human species, they can also create more than just delicious golden honey. Let’s dive into what other products our honey bee friends give us.
Royal jelly from the honeybee
You may have heard of Royal jelly. Perhaps you’ve seen it on display in the window of your city’s duty-free shop.
It’s been used since ancient times for care and human health. And it is still very important in traditional and folkloristic medicine. In Asia there’s a branch of alternative medicine called Apiarty that uses honey bee products including honey, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom.
Royal jelly in particular is well known for its protective effects on reproductive health, neurodegenerative disorders, wound healing, and aging.
How is Royal jelly made?
Royal Jelly is a white-yellowish gelatinous-viscous glandular secretion produced from the hypopharyngeal and mandibular salivary glands of young nurse (bees aged between 5 and 14 days. (Chauvin, 1968, Fujita et al., 2013). It has a sour taste, and a slight characteristic smell of phenol that gives it its characteristic flavour.
The substance 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 Royal jelly. But the queen larvae continues to be fed this special substance throughout their development.
It is harvested and collected from queen cells (honeycomb) when the queen larvae are about five days old. This is because these are the only cells where large amounts are deposited.
A well-managed hive during a season of 5–6 months can produce approximately 500 grams of Royal jelly.
Interestingly, Royal jelly has a significant impact on the lifespan of bees. A worker bee lives around 45 days, while a queen bee could live up to five years. In that time she can spawn the equivalent of her weight in eggs each day (approximately 2000–3000 eggs per day for several years).
Beeswax from our honeybees
Not only do bees produce Royal jelly, they also produce beeswax.
Beeswax has been used by humans since 1550 BC when ancient Egyptians used it when embalming, for mummification of their pharaohs, and for preserving papyrus scrolls and protecting paintings.
The ancient Greek legend of the Athenian, the architect Daedalus (Dedalos), is remembered because he and his son Icarus tried to escape from the island of Crete by making themselves wings of bird feathers, which they fastened to their bodies with beeswax.
Flying too high to the sun, the beeswax on Icarus’ wings melted and fell away, and he plunged into the Aegean Sea and drowned.
How is beeswax made?
Young worker bees secrete beeswax from a series of glands on their abdomens. They use this beeswax to form the walls and caps of the honeycomb.
Just like the honey that bees produce, many people harvest beeswax for various purposes such as candles, lip balms, creams, polish and conditioners. We find harvesting our beeswax for reusable wax wraps to be the best use of our beeswax as it aligns with our values of contributing to the ‘slow living’ movement.
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 honeybees that nest in tree cavities use propolis to seal cracks in the hive. Often when a swarm of honey bees takes up residence in a possum box or tree hollow, the bees use propolis to make a small entrance to the hive. Dwarf honey bees use propolis to defend against ants by coating the branch their nest is suspended from to create a sticky moat.
Because of its high medicinal qualities, propolis is consumed by humans (often in capsule form) as a health supplement in various ways. It’s still found in our honey and it’s also used in some cosmetics, and even as an ingredient in some toothpaste.
Some bizarre uses of honey bee products
Venom and beehive air. Yes, we humans have capitalised on some rather
bizarre bee products.
When a worker bee stings, it injects bee venom as a defence mechanism 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, a severe allergic reaction.
Bee venom has been used as an alternative medicine in apitherapy for some time for its health benefits and to treat some illnesses. Specially built machines are used to extract (or ‘milk’) the venom without harming the bee. However, many believe the benefits of bee venom are not supported by scientific evidence.
Believe it or not, it is becoming more popular when seeing a natural therapist to be able to inhale the air created in the beehive. Yes, the wondrous powers of bees are being harvested from the air the honey bees create in their beehives.
This is sometimes done by attaching a hose and mask to the cover of the beehive. The patient will then sit for some time inhaling the air circulated in the hive.
We can’t say we have ever tried inhaling beehive air directly with a mask. But there is some evidence to suggest there may be good results for asthma sufferers.
Plus, as any beekeeper will tell you, the smell of a beehive can be quite pleasant and unlike anything in nature – especially when the bees are on a honey flow.
Saleview Estate produces honey and beeswax wraps
While Saleview Estate honey and our reusable beeswax wraps are the main products we offer at the moment, there are plenty more products ready to be sourced from our bee friends.
And while we’re not moving into the beehive air treatment industry just yet, the business is still young and we never say never ;)
Over to you
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