Bee products have been around since the beginning of time, and their benefits known for almost as long. Modern science disputes any probability that bee products could be as beneficial as believers claim. Modern science also states that it is aerodynamically impossible for the bee to fly, yet it does.
PROPOLIS is often called “bee glue.” It is the sticky resin that seeps from the buds of some trees and oozes from the bark of others. The trees that produce this resin are mainly conifers, which are evergreens that produce cones. Bees seem to prefer the resin from the poplar tree.
There are only a few propolis-gathering experts in each hive. Bees of foraging age collect propolis only on warm days when the resin is soft and pliable. As the resin is gathered, it is blended with wax flakes secreted from special glands on the abdomen of the bee. The mixture is then kneaded or molded into a tiny ball and placed into the pollen baskets located on the legs of the bee. When the source is exhausted she flies to another area to gather until her pollen baskets are full. It may take an hour to fill her baskets. The same procedure is used in reverse when she takes her load back to the hive where the receiving bees help unload and store the substance. This procedure can take several hours.
Propolis is used to reduce the size of the entrance and to patch up holes or cracks. It is also used as an antiseptic, lining each cell and the interior of the hive. If another insect enters the hive, it is promptly killed and removed. If the body is too large to remove, it is covered with propolis to keep its contaminants from harming the hive.
Pliny, the Elder (79-23 BC) divided propolis into three categories:
1) commosis – referring to its use as a disinfectant;
2) pissoceros – referring to its use as a structural reinforcement;
3) propolis –referring to the reduction of the entrance to the bee’s city or “polis.”
Pliny also describes the medicinal action of propolis on humans in the reduction of swelling, the soothing of pain, and the healing of open sores.
It is reported that the renowned Stradivarius (1644-1737 AD) handmixed his own propolis varnish to polish his handcrafted instruments. Having made only 1,116 stringed instruments, no one has ever been able to duplicate his workmanship or his recipe for this varnish.
During the Boer War (1888-1902 AD), propolis was mixed with petroleum jelly and used successfully to disinfect wounds. Before the days of antibiotics, propolis was used most often to combat infections. More recently, it has shown to be effective against bacteria resistant to penicillin, ampicillin, methicillin, streptomycin, chloramphenicaol, oxytetracycline, erythromycin, and sulfathiazole. It is also effective against E. coli and salmonella. Used with alcohol, propolis has removed molds and fungi more efficiently and for a longer period of time than standard remedies.
Propolis has antiseptic, antibiotic, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Scientists state that at least part of this can be attributed to the galangin, caffeic acid, and ferulic acid components. Other known components of propolis include: 55% balsam and resinous compounds, 30% beeswax, 10% ethereal and aromatic oils, 5% pollen, plus flavonoids, cinnamic acid, cinnamyl alcohol, vanillin, caffeic acid, tetochrysin, isalpinin, pinocembrin, chrysin, galangin, and ferulic acid. Propolis is said to have 500 times more flavonoids than the average orange.
ROYAL JELLY is secreted from the hypopharyngeal glands located on either side of the head of a bee. Nurse bees, between the ages of five and fifteen days, are the only ones able to secret this substance used to feed larvae and the queen.
Royal jelly is a thick, creamy substance synthesized in the body of the bee during the digestion of bee pollen. Because it is eventually secreted from glands of the bee, royal jelly contains high levels of hormones and proteins. It also contains lipids, minerals, vitamins (A, C, E, and B), twenty amino acids, fatty acids, sugars, sterols, phosphorus, acetylcholine, nucleic acids (RNA/DNA), gelatin, gamma globulin, decanoic acid (an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal component), and other yet unidentified components.
It is the royal jelly that make the queen bee. She is made, not born. The eggs laid are all the same. The only difference is that one is singled out to be a queen and is exclusively fed the royal jelly all of its life. The other larvae only receive the substance for the first three days of their existence.
Stories have emerged out of several European countries where royal jelly was prescribed by opthamologists. Evidentally, fuzzy eyesight was made clearer after consuming it for several weeks.
Careful testing has revealed that royal jelly that is twenty-four hours old is four times more biologically active than royal jelly forty-eight hours old. The kind fed to the queen is never more than twenty-four hours old; and she lives forty times longer than the worker bees. Since it deteriorates so rapidly, the royal jelly must be freeze-dried as quickly as possible after harvesting. Unless labels state that it has been freeze-dried, it is likely that a substandard product is being purchased. Since it is very expensive, it is wise to get the most for your money.
The harvesting may explain why royal jelly is expensive. Collection is very involved. The queen bee is removed from the hive. Since the colony cannot live very long without a queen, the colony frantically tries to rear another. The beekeeper will then cut away the walls of the queen larvae cells and collect the jelly. As this method is not very efficient or acceptable, most beekeepers have adopted another method. Large harvests involve mass production of queens. Young worker larvae, eight to twenty-four hours old, are taken out of their brood cells and transferred to queen cells. These are much bigger and easier for the beekeeper to remove. Each of these cells is primed with a bit of royal jelly. Nurse bees begin feeding the larvae with the royal jelly they secrete. By the end of the third day, each queen cell will contain the maximum amount of royal jelly possible. The frames are then removed and the cells cut down. The larvae are removed and discarded, and the royal jelly extracted. To produce one pound of royal jelly, it requires the lives of 1000 bees.
POLLEN is not bee excretement as some believe. Pollen is the male seed of flowers required for fertilization of a plant. These minute particles consist of corpuscles formed at the free end of the stamen in the heart of the blossom. Every variety of flower in the universe puts forth a dusting of pollen.
There are two kinds of pollen. One is carried by the wind (anemophile), while the other (entomophile) must attach itself to insects coming into the flower. The entomophile pollen is heavier and different altogether from the other kind. Plants that produce this type of pollen are dependent on bees for their survival. These pollens are never airborne and are not responsible for seasonal allergies. Entomophile pollens are actually an effective treatment for allergies brought on by anemophile pollens.
When a bee arrives at a flower, she scrapes off the powdery pollen with her jaws and front legs and moistens it with a dab of honey she brought with her. She then places it into her pollen baskets, which are concave areas in her hind legs. These are partially hidden with a thick layer of bristles called pollen combs. The bee uses these combs to brush the powder from her coat in midflight. She then rams the pollen into her baskets on each leg, keeping her load balanced so she can fly. Each leg hold only two granules of bee pollen at a time and will take her an hour to collect. Each granule weighs approximately 1/1000th of a gram. It takes about 1200 pellets to fit into a teaspoon. This is roughly 2.5 billion grains of pollen.
Pollen is a good source of rutin. Rutin is a glucoside that helps capillary walls become more resistant to harmful substances. It is also known to stabalize metabolism, cut down on bleeding time, and reinforce and regulate heart rythms. Pollen also contains nucleic acids (RNA/DNA), hormones, antibiotic factors, Vitamins (A, B, C, and E), fatty acids, glutamic acid, natural sugars (mostly fructose and glucose), and enzymes. It is also the only known non-meat item to contain Vitamin B12. By weight, pollen contains more protein than meat.
As far back as 1948, studies carried out by the USDA demonstrated dramatic results with the use of bee pollen. An article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (Oct. 1948) outlined studies done with mice specially bred to develop tumors during a specific period of their lives. When they were fed bee pollen – from the Division of Bee Culture – the tumors were delayed in their development and then disappeared entirely. Yet, this did not receive widespread pulication. There are many health benefits to bee pollen, but advocates are not allowed to proclaim them without risk of severe repercussions.
Scientists have attempted to dulicate bee pollen in the laboratory using all the known components. But when they fed it to the bees, they died. It is nice to know that there are things in life that only nature can produce.
HONEY is the best known of the bee products. In order to produce one pound of honey, the bees must bring in about 75,000 loads of nectar into the hive. This amount of flying is equal to roughly four to six times around the circumference of the earth. To process the gathered nectar into honey, the receiving bee will transfer it to a honeycomb cell. Since the water content is high, about ¾ of it must be removed. This is accomplished when the bees distribute themselves throughout the hive and start beating their wings. This fanning not only removes excess moisture, but keeps the hive at a constant temperature of 94°F. The lifetime of a worker bee is about six weeks. During that time, she will have made only ½ tsp. of honey.