The collection of Bee Hive Products

Bee Hive Products 

1.) Honey

2.) Pollen

3.) Royal Jelly

4.) Propolis

5.) Bee venom

6.) Beeswax

Products of the behive

 1.) Honey production

                    Honey is the sweet, viscous juice usually collected in the largest quantities from the beehive. It is found in cells of the honeybee comb. Mature (ripe) honey is usually found in sealed combs and can be kept indefinitely; unsealed honey is not mature (unripe) and therefore ferments shortly after it is harvested. Honey is used as food, medicine (constipation, duodenal ulcers, liver problems, burns, etc) and as ingredients in medicine (added in cough syrups), food (confectionery industry), making beverages and cosmetic creams.

2.) Pollen collection

                       Pollen is the principle food of bees and is collected from the anthers of flowers on the legs of the bees. The hairs on the bee’s legs act like a hair comb. As the bees collect the pollen, they moisten it with a little nectar when packing it into pollen loads on their hind legs. Part of the pollen serves to pollinate flowers, and part is brought back to the hive in their pollen baskets. Bees then store pollen in the combs but not in great quantities. Pollen comes in many different colours from red, yellow to brown, depending on the flower source.

                        All are different, some can be bitter while some can be sweet and all these varieties can be mixed together. Beekeepers collect it for medicinal needs as it contains high quality nutrients and is richer in protein than eggs, meat and milk. It contains most of the vitamins and proteins that the body needs. It can be eaten dry but is primarily used in food, traditional medicines, as nutritional supplements and in cosmetics such as shampoos, creams and even perfume. As a food, it aids digestion, builds energy, strengthens immunity, improves concentration (it is good for the brain!) and helps to balance the metabolism (so aids weight loss or gain).

                      It also has some antibiotic properties. Many beekeepers eat pollen in the comb (beebread). It is easier to digest than dry pollen and can help people live longer lives, for example, one tribe in Pakistan is known only to survive on nuts, berries and beebread – their average age is 140 years. Both bee bread and pollen should not be eaten in large quantities as it is hard to digest and can cause stomach upset. It is better to eat small amounts, especially at first to allow the body to become accustomed to it.

How pollen is collected

                                    It is easy. The beekeeper puts a pollen trap in the hive entrance. The pollen trap looks like a metal sheet full of holes or a 5mm wire mesh. A simple pollen trap can be made locally, cheaply and easily. As the bees pass through the holes the pollen pellets are knocked from the bees’ legs and fall into a drawer or tray covered by a finer mesh. However, in order not to harm the colony, collections must be limited to every other day to 2-3kg per hive per year from a strong colony. Remember the bees need pollen stores to feed the brood so traps should be removed at regular intervals or the colony will be short of food. Pollen must not be collected from a weak colony. The pollen must be immediately dried out of the sun, as the sun will destroy the vitamins in the pollen. It should be spread in a thin layer in the shade where a breeze is felt. Pollen itself is moist as it mixes with nectar but well dried pollen will crack between a person’s teeth like rice. It must be stored in a dry cool place in sealed containers and protected against moisture. Pollen collection is more successful in dry areas as humidity increases the danger of contamination of collected pollen with mould and fungi.

3.) Royal jelly collection

                                  Royal Jelly is a whitish fluid, secreted by the young bees and used to feed the queen bee in large amounts. Young bees that have just hatched out produce it just within their first 6 days. Royal jelly does not come from flowers. A queen bee can live between four and five years if she is fed exclusively on royal jelly, lays about 1,500 eggs a day, and has a healthy life protected from bacteria and parasites. Without royal jelly she cannot be a queen bee.

                                   It is the rich nutrition in royal jelly that makes the queen fertile and strong. It contains vitamins and hormones for increasing fertility, which is why she can lay so many eggs over so many years. Other female worker bees that do not feed on royal jelly are sterile and cannot lay eggs. Royal jelly also has nutritional, energetic and metabolic advantages for humans. It is so special but not many beekeepers collect it. It is rich in proteins and all B vitamins and increases overall mental and physical well-being. It can be taken pure or blended with honey (5 parts royal jelly to 120 parts honey). It is also used as a dietary supplement and fertility stimulant. In skin preparation such as soap it is known to prevent wrinkles.

How royal jelly is collected

                                    It needs specialized equipment and refrigeration. The method involves removing the queen from the hive so the bees make new queen cells. When the quality and the quantity of the royal jelly are at its peak, the beekeeper extracts the queen bee larvae with tweezers and removes the precious substance by suction. 250-500g can be collected from each hive every year. It must be kept below 4 degrees centigrade from the point of collection as it goes rotten very quickly, if it is to be sold for commercial value. This may be a good income opportunity for beekeepers in Uganda to explore.

4.) Propolis collection

                                  Bees gather resin from around the new buds of certain living trees and plants. They collect it in their mouths, pack it in their legs and use it for making propolis. It is used by bees for repairing the hive and also serves as protection to the hive from bacteria, fungi and viruses. Bees use it as medicine in the hive because it is a powerful natural antibiotic and is both antifungal and antibacterial. Interestingly, if a pest or predator dies in the hive and can not be removed, the bees will wrap it in propolis so that it does not rot or smell. Humans also use propolis to prevent infection. Propolis is helpful for preventing coughs and colds; and treating stomach ulcers. If eaten in its natural state, it is better to suck a small piece as it sticks to the teeth if you chew it! It also helps to treat wounds and skin disorders. Raw propolis can be taken and stuck over a cut just like sealing plaster! It also helps to stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight disease for itself. Propolis can be used in many applications and is used to produce creams, mouthwash, toothpaste, and throat syrup. It is also used in animal feed to treat some disorders and as the basis for fine wood varnishes. 

How to collect propolis

                                        The beekeeper collects it by scraping the bars and walls of the hive with a knife or hive tool. To increase collection, many beekeepers will put a piece of mesh inside the top of the hive. The bees will fill the holes of the mesh with propolis as they will consider this to be the boundary of the nest. It is sticky and soft when warm but hard and brittle when cold. The propolis can then be scraped off or the mesh can be put in the freezer for 24 hours. This will make it easier to knock or scrape off the hardened propolis. 100-200g a year can be collected from each hive. It should be stored in dark, clean sealed buckets, away from excessive heat and must be protected against contamination such as chemicals. Generally speaking, most uses require it to be in liquid form and it has to be dissolved. This extraction however requires some care and skill.

5.) Bee venom

                                            Bee venom is the poisonous, colorless liquid contained in the venom sac of the bee, used to sting predators or enemies. It is an anti-inflammatory and is used by humans to relieve pain. It is effective in treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, neuralgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even multiple sclerosis. Bee venom therapy can also help with infertility problems. Applying bee venom medicinally can be easy. This is done by holding both of the bee’s wings and applying the tip of the abdomen to the painful area and allowing the bee to sting the area. The bee then dies as the sting is left in the skin. The number of stings and length of treatment required depends on how old and severe the disease is. However it must be remembered that it is dangerous to sting people who are allergic to bee stings. Always ask the person first if they are allergic to bee stings. A small, localized swelling with redness is normal. Itching all over the body and shortness of breath is not. Bee venom is widely used in creams, soaps, liniments and ointments. It may also come in capsule form.

How to collect bee venom

                                                 An electric shock method is used to stimulate the bees to sting a collector frame or cloth where it dries and is then scraped off. This powder is very dangerous to handle and it must be freeze-dried and protected from moisture and light. If done correctly it can be collected without killing the bees.

6.) Beeswax

                                              Beeswax is not a plant product but a bee secretion and bees do not collect it from outside of the hive. Worker bees make regular hexagonal wax cells and cappings in the hive to store new honey. These honeycombs are made from beeswax produced by wax glands on the underside of the abdomen of a worker bee between 12 and 15 days old. Tiny scales of wax are secreted and knead (softened) and then use their legs to construct the cells of the honeycomb. 

                                            Humans most commonly use wax in candle making as it makes drip less, smokeless and long lasting candles. It is the base for lipstick and rouge and is used in lip balm, skin creams, deodorants and hair creams. It is also used in drugs (as the outside coating of pills), modeling and statue making, cosmetics, printing, food processing and furniture polish.

How to collect beeswax

                                            The beekeeper gets the beeswax from the honeycombs having first extracted the honey. Beeswax can also be got from old empty combs. It can then be melted and sieved and sold as a raw commodity. However most beekeepers do not know the benefits of beeswax and throw combs away. But many small businesses can be developed from beeswax production.

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