Often times when we talk about bee products, our minds go straight to honey. That’s no surprise, considering it’s the most widespread bee product and a staple in most homes around the world. But there are other products that bees create and it’s time to give them their due!
Bee pollen is super rich in protein, as well as many vitamins, essential amino acids and various fatty acids. Bees get covered in pollen while they’re collecting nectar from plants, and they deposit it in the honeycomb cells. If you install a pollen trap at the entrance of the hive, it will trap the fresh pollen when the bees squeeze through the wire. If there’s no pollen trap, the balls of pollen can be removed from the honeycomb cell and are known as “bee bread”.
It’s starting to pop up in many farm-to-table restaurant dishes, adding a slightly sweet, slightly floral taste. Just like with honey, the taste will vary dependent on the type of flower that the pollen came from. While it can be eaten in dry form, it’s recommended that it’s soaked in water so that it’s more easily digestible and the nutrients can be absorbed better into the bloodstream. It has many different uses, from yogurt topping to vinaigrettes to baked goods. Beware – pollen is an allergen, so if you haven’t had it before, be sure to only ingest a tiny amount and watch for reactions!
Royal Jelly is produced by the glands of young worker bees. The jelly is fed to the larvae, and the queen bees live exclusively on it. Production of royal jelly is very demanding.
It is an excellent supplement for the elderly, as it helps to improve general wellbeing and brain function, as well as promotes healthy functioning of glands. It should only be ingested in small quantities and can be mixed with other bee products like honey, pollen, wax or propolis.
Propolis comes from the resin of various trees and shrubs, blended with pollen pellets while feeding larvae. They coat the inside of the hive with it to protect it from moisture, wind and microbes. It is a natural antibiotic, and many pharmaceutical preparations like ointments and tablets are made with it.
Like royal jelly, wax is also produced by the glands of worker bees, which they need in order to build the honeycomb and to seal the honey-filled cells. Fresh wax is almost entirely white, while older wax will turn a yellow/brown colour. It’s often used in creams as it helps to make skin soft and supple, and also has antibiotic properties. Popular items created from beeswax also include candles, lip balms, and other natural beauty products.
You read that right! Unlike their nasty counterpart (wasps), bees need a good reason to sting. They typically only sting if their life is being threatened. If you find yourself standing too close to the front of a hive, you might also get stung, but that’s just the guard bees doing their duty of guarding the entrance of their home.
The venom from bees has been used around the world not only to desensitise people allergic to bees, but also to heal various conditions and illnesses (under medical supervision, of course). More recently, we’re seeing it becoming more popular in the cosmetic industry as a natural substitute for Botox.