A Dresser Full of Bees

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Beekeeping Education

What is Propolis?

Propolis is a substance that honey bees make to fill gaps in the hive, basically weatherproofing it, from drafts, and unwanted moisture, such as rain and snow.  Keeping gaps and holes in a beehive sealed up helps the bees regulate the temperature and humidity in the hive.  Proper temperature and humidity help them reproduce, raise their young, and produce the honey we love to eat, and most importantly allows the hive to stay healthy to fight against diseases, and pests.

Most often the bees will seal up any gap smaller than a 1/4″ with propolis.  Larger gaps between 1/4″ and 3/8″ the bees use as passageways through the hive called Bee Space.  Gaps larger than 3/8″ will most likely be filled with honeycomb or burr comb.

Propolis is sometimes called bee glue; when bees use it to seal up the hive it glues the hive parts together, so when you do a hive inspection you will have to pry apart the hive boxes using your hive tool.  Propolis is sticky when the temperatures are above 68°F  while at lower temperatures it becomes hard and brittle.

Propolis can also be used as a defense mechanism, when a pest such as small hive beetles gets into the hive, the bees will often chase them to the edges or corners of the hive and block them in using propolis, basically creating jail walls out of the substance.

How is Propolis Made?

Propolis a produced by the bees mixing their saliva with beeswax, and other plant life foraged from the surrounding environments such as proteins and resins from tree buds, sap, and other plants.   This gives beehives from different areas word their own unique recipe of propolis.  Its color varies depending on the sources of protein and resins available in the area, with dark orangeish brown as the most common.

Can You Eat Propolis and Does it Have a Medicinal Value?

Propolis has a sweet taste to it, but that sweet taste can be overshadowed by an antiseptic taste, as propolis seems to numb the taste buds.

Many people believe that Propolis has a medicinal value such as a topical treatment for acne, it also has many other uses due to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, antimycotic, antifungal, antiulcer, anticancer, and immunomodulatory properties.  However, there has not been a lot of research done on how effective propolis is or what dose you need to take for it to be effective, so if you have an ailment, it is best to consult your doctor not your bees.

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