We have all consumed honey bee products in one way or another. However, most of us may even not be aware that one of our favorite products is actually derived from honey. Honey is not the only thing that bees produce. Other products are:
Bees wax is ideally made by young bees, precisely 2 to 3 weeks old. They prepare the bee wax after feeding the young brood on royal jelly, just before they venture outside the hive to forage. The bees wax is sourced from underneath the abdomen of the worker bees. It is used by the bees as building blocks of the hive. The wax is used in building comb cells for the young bees. It is also used for sealing cracks in the hive and building storage honey cells. Furthermore, bees wax acts as a cushion against infection for the brood.
Human uses of bees wax are diverse. It is and remains to be the most useful bee product in the market. Its use dates back to early historic days when it was used for paying taxes. It was even considered a legal tender in Europe during its early historic years. Artisans also used bees wax for making models historically. It was also used by priests to embalm bodies and woodworkers used it for holding together wood pieces. Other uses of bees wax include: making waterproof walls in ancient Roman Empire, making writing tablets, strengthening sewing threats, food preservative, and in the creation of moisture-proof casing. Many of these uses are still applicable today in addition to making of the finest candles, making cosmetics, polishes, food applications, and pharmaceutical product with many applications.
Royal jelly is a white fluid that is paste-like and is secreted by the worker bee from its head glands. The jelly is used to feed the larvae in the colony. Royal jelly is composed of 67% water, crude protein 12.5%, simple sugars 11% and 5% fatty acids+ vitamin C + enzymes + minerals. The nurse bees produce this essential substance when 5 to 15 days old and is fed on the larvae on its first three days of existence. After that the larvae chosen as the queen is strictly fed on huge amounts of the royal jelly. Thereafter various molecular events take place, transforming the queen into a huge, fertile bee with a long life and will feed on royal jelly for the rest of its life.
The Royal jelly is usually harvested when the queen is 4 days old. It is collected from the queen cells where it is deposited in huge amounts. In fact the queen literally swims on the jelly. The jelly is widely used since it has many benefits. First off, it stimulates neurological cell growth which helps in the treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. It is also used for healing wounds, lowers cholesterol levels, fights inflammation, and inhibits the vascularization of tumors. It is regarded as a dietary supplement and is highly accepted as a stimulant and therapeutic agent.
Propolis is another important honey bee product. The bees gather resins from flowers, trees, and other artificial sources which are then used to make propolis. Its composition normally varies depending on the season, the area in question, and the resin sources available. However, it is most cases compost of 1/5 resins and vegetable balsams, 1/3 wax, 1/10 essential oils, and 1/5 pollen. Its chemical composition will also vary depending on the vegetation. Propolis is used by bees for sealing cracks in the hive and also for blocking fungi and bacteria.
Propolis usually dries and becomes impenetrable and hard. It protects the bees from adverse climatic changes such as cold and hot temperatures. Other studies have shown that bees use the product to seal huge animals such as rats and other invaders when they die within the hive. This helps render the dead carcass harmless to the hive inhabitants.
Propolis has antiseptic, detoxifying, and antimicrobial properties. It is used for healing wounds resulting from ulcers, inflammation or even burns. It has even been given the name “Russian penicillin”. When used as an antiseptic salve or wash, propolis inhibits bacterial growth in cuts, burns and wounds. It is also an excellent remedy for sore throats. In terms of chemical composition, the product will vary depending on the sources used and no two products have the same medicinal properties.
Bee pollen is produced from the anthers of flowering plants. It is made up of sugars, proteins, lipids, and amino acids. The pollen is normally collected by bees when foraging from one flower to the other. In the process they act as pollinating agents. On their return to the hive, the pollen is packed, mixed with nectar and honey then stored as granules. This forms what is referred to as bee bread. It is the main source of protein for the bees and helps in the production of royal jelly and bee wax.
There are various non-scientific records that have reported the benefits of bee pollen. These include: endocrine disorders, chronic problems, male sterility, common cold, ulcers, acne, and high blood pressure. Some of the proven medical benefits of pollen include its role in eliminating prostate problems and allergies. It treats swelling and cancer of the prostate area. It is also effective in treating high fever and sensitivity to pollen. Pollen is used as a food supplement. It is however impossible to get exact chemical components from different pollen sourced from different regions.
A Final Word
So, honey is not the only product that bees produce. Bee wax, royal jelly, propolis and bee pollen are all by-products of the beekeeping process and these products are diverse in their uses and can be very beneficial to us humans.