This area of is all about the amazing products that come from the beehive. We all think of honey when we think of bees, but did you know that there are five major raw materials that we get from the beehive? Maybe some of them you won’t even have heard of…
Bee pollen is not quite the same thing as flower pollen. The bees collect the pollen and basically mix it with a solution of honey and nectar from their mouths, so that it sticks together better and they can easily get it back to the hive. Listen, I have recently added a great article all about this unusual substance, so please take a look for some fascinating facts – and a few warnings – about bee pollen.
Propolis is a sort of sticky brown bee cement, used to strengthen the beehive by filling in gaps and by acting as a kind of varnish. It is more than just a cement though – it stops fungus from growing and stops infections entering the hive, because it is a natural antibiotic and antifungal agent. I have a fascinating page with all the interesting facts on bee propolis so please give it a visit if this is a subject that interests you.
This white sticky fuild is a special food produced from glands in the worker bees’ head. It is used to feed all infant bees, but young queen bees get fed only on this food throughout their childhoods, and reserves of royal jelly are secreted into the queen cells. Queen bees and worker bees are born the same, and it is the extra royal jelly that the queen gets that makes her grow so huge and live so much longer. because of this, royal jelly has fascinated humans over the years. I have a special royal jelly page with plenty more information, so please take a look.
This soft wax is what we call the honeycomb; the structure of the hive itself. In commercial beehives, the honeycomb is arranged on flat wooden frames which makes it easier to harvest both wax and honey. When the honey has been removed, the wax honeycomb can be melted down, and then filtered to remove any debris. It is then used to manufacture not just candles but also polish, cosmetics and medical products. I have a page all about beeswax and some information on bulk beeswax if you are a manufacturer looking for larger quantities.
For thousands of years, beeswax has been used to make the best candles. Throughout history and right up until the present day, these candles are prized as the very best, because of their sweet smell and their almost smoke-free burn. Please take a look at my beewax candles page for some fascinating stories, health information and useful buying tips.
These deserve a special mention thanks to the increase in the number of people making their own natural candles. See my page on beeswax sheet for all the important stuff, before you buy any.
For many years, bee stings have been used as a therapy for all kinds of ailments. It is popularly believed that bee venom can reduce pain for arthritis sufferers, and help reduce the effects of multiple sclerosis, and many stories on the internet can be found of people who swear by it. However, there is very little solid evidence and a lack of research results. Even a 2008 study by MS Lee reported in the Journal of Pain could only conclude that venom “may help”.
These days, using bee venom does not need to involve being stung by bees. A painless alternative is to buy a jar of honey and bee venom which tastes very good and won’t sting! You may consider it worth a try, but remember that there are no guarantees that this will work for you.
I’ve put together a little more information on bee stings here – but listen, if talking about bee stings makes you feel nervous, you might like to skip this section!
OK, you’re still with me, so here goes:
Bee venom is released from a gland when a bee stings. Male honey bees do not have stings at all – only the queen and the female worker bees can sting. Fortunately, when bees are away from the hive foraging, they are unlikely to sting unless you trap them somehow, for example in a sleeve or the leg of your pants. If someone attacks the hive, a bee may sting to defend it, and the sting gives off a special scent (pheromone) which encourages other bees to come along and sting aswell! A honey bee that stings a mammal will die because the sting has two little barbs that get caught in the victim’s skin and cause the sting and the venom gland to be torn out of the bee’s body. Interestingly, a bee can sting other animals many times – it is only the soft flesh of mammals that traps the sting. Most people who get stung by a bee will experience a little local pain for a while – maybe an hour, or a few hours. A few unlucky ones react allergically and need immediate medical treatment.
If you get stung by a bee, you should gather up your courage and IMMEDIATELY pull out or rub off the stinger. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but get it out right away. This is because the stinger will work its way further in for several minutes, and the gland, which is still attached, will continue to pump venom. So be brave, and get rid of that stinger!
Humans typically collect bee venom something like this: a wire mesh is placed over the hive entrance. Just behind it is a thin plastic or rubber sheet, and behind that a plate of glass. A mild electric current is passed through the mesh. When the bees get the electric shock, they think that the thin sheet is attacking them and sting it. The sting goes through the sheet and the venom is left between the sheet and the glass plate. It starts out as a clear liquid, but later dries into a white powder. It is then scraped off the glass. Unlike when a bee stings a mammal, the sting does not get stuck in the sheet so the bee may be a little cross but is not harmed by this process.
Finally, no page on bee products would be complete without some information on honey! This is where it comes from: Basically, a worker bee collects nectar from flowers and swallows it into her “honey stomach”. This is separate from her “normal” stomach. The nectar is partially digested there. When the worker returns to the hive, “house bees” suck out the partially-digested nectar through her mouth and then sort of chew it for about 30 minutes, after which it is a very wet honey. This honey is then spread around the cells of the hive and fanned by the bees’ wings to dry it a little, so it won’t rot. When it’s dry enough, the cells where it is stored are closed off or capped with wax. Honey is stored in the hive for periods when no plants are in flower, or fed to the young larvae mixed with pollen. Honey has been shown to be beneficial in many ways to man. I have a whole page dedicated to the . It is also a nutritious food, and lots of useful information can be found in this link on honey and nutrition. You will also find a lot of information about the whole range of honey products including different types of honey on this web site.