Roe Valley Beekeepers Association

Beekeeping Advice

Products of the hive

an account of the use of bee products other than honey (Pollen, Royal Jelly, Venom, Propolis & Wax)


Pollen can be collected at the hive entrance by the placement of a pollen trap through which bees must traverse to enter the hive. Some of the pollen on their pollen baskets will be brushed off, and will collect in a tray placed underneath as small pellets. Pollen could also be extracted from comb using a small vacuum plunger device. In a strong hive in a flow a large quantity of pollen can be collected. However pollen traps should not be left permanently in place otherwise the colony will be depleted. Pollen collected should be dried to prevent mould growth, and can be stored dry for several months, or for much longer by freezing. The retained pollen can be a useful food supplement for spring use. The patties can be made by adding pollen (30%) to a small quantity of honey and 70% bakers yeast and these can be placed on the top bars for consumption by the colony. Pollen can also be sold to health food outlets. Most of their supply is sourced from the far east, and is highly adulterated. The heath benefits of pollen include relief of allergic reactions (eg hay fever) but this requires that the pollen is local and fresh.

2 Royal Jelly

Royal jelly can be collected in small quantities from emerging queen cells. Its production can be achieved by inducing a temporary state of queenlessness and then harvesting royal jelly from the queen cells produced, avoiding a situation in which the hive may swarm by inspections and collections at no more than 3 day intervals. Royal jelly can be stored in a domestic freezer and is a valuable commodity. It can be used by beekeepers involved in queen cell grafting to charge queen cups, and is said to help calm colonies during queen introduction. Royal jelly is also available to the public in the hope of health benefits, none of which are scientifically based.

3 Venom

The collection of venom is a specialist area. It involves inducing stinging behaviour in bees by placing an electrified grid at the hive entrance. A fine gauze cloth is placed beyond the grid and when bees sting through this gauze, they deposit venom on a glass slide underneath. The venom is then collected and processed by pharmaceutical manufacturers who can provide venom for human inoculation for those with hypersensitivity reactions. There are a number of chemical constituents which cause inflammatory reactions including histamine hydroxy-tryptamine: however desensitisation requires dilute quantities of all of the constituents and therefore requires venom of known strength and dilution.

4 Propolis

Propolis is collected and manufactured by the colony from tree and bud sap. It is a disinfectant which is insoluble in water and with a characteristic smell. Bees use propolis to glue together their hive, to make it air and watertight, and to seal gaps of less than 8mm. They will also wrap intruders in propolis (eg Bees, mice etc)

Propolis has antiseptic and antibiotic properties. Collection requires dissolution in alcohol, and extraction, and the resultant tincture can be applied to wounds, septic spots, and sprayed onto inflamed sore throats.

Wax .    Cappings will be collected from a decapping tray (eg the Pratley) following the decapping process. At this point they will have a significant amount of honey adhering. This can be collected from the cappings over a gauze tray. The moist cappings can then be returned to the hive from which it originated (thus avoiding any potential for infection spread) in the evening in a Ashcroft or Miller feeder, (to avoid robbing) The bees will remove remaining honey. The cappings may need to be turned to permit bess to remove all traces of honey, and after a day or two the cappings will be dry and resembling rice particles. An alternative is to rinse the cappings in water (preferably rain water), and the washings could be retained as the basis of Meade production. The cappings will need to be washed several times and can then be air dried. An alternative is to leave the cappings to be washed naturally in the rain. The washed and dried cappings and those taken back from the Ashcroft feeder, can be melted down for reuse using a double saucepan (used in the kitchen for melting chocolate and for making custards) The lower chamber contains water which is boiled. The upper chamber contains the wax. Its temperature cannot be raised above the boiling point of water (100 degrees) using this method. It should be noted that wax is flammable and that it should not be directly heated otherwise it may vapourise and ignite. Liquified wax can be run into moulds . As cappings wax is of high quality it makes a good product for sale or show. It will require filtering using muslin cloth, and this process may be repeated several times to ensure a clean product. If the wax is to be poured into a mould for show it should be cooled slowly to prevent shrinkage, and it should be free of bloom and of debris which would float to the surface.

Alan McKinney