|The Many Products of the Hive
The magic of beeswax begins in the field, where honeybees collect pollen and nectar from flowers. Next, each load of nectar is passed from field bees to hive bees, which are younger and more efficient at producing wax. After the wax is made through a complex digestive process, it is used as building material for the combs. Each chamber in the comb is hexagonal in shape, which is a marvel of engineering that efficiently utilizes the smallest amount of wax needed for strength in design and volume of honey stored. Beekeepers build and supply frames for their bees to build combs that are easy to remove and extract honey and wax from.
Much More Than Just Wax: Besides their incredibly valuable role in the ecosystem as pollinators, bees also produce a variety of products besides beeswax. They include:
Honey: This sweet, golden syrup is produced from the nectar collected by the bees from flower blossoms. In order to make one pound of honey, 70,000 loads of nectar are needed, and an active hive can make up to 300 pounds of honey per season. Honey is actively transferred by worker bees from one honeycomb cell to another until the honey becomes thick, at which point bees band together and fan it completely dry with their wings. The honey is then sealed within the comb, where it can keep for years, acting as a food source for the hive during the winter months. Honey is high in protein and contains several types of vitamins. It is also a balanced sugar and therefore gives a safe, healthy energy boost.
Bee Pollen: Honeybees, who are responsible for pollinating 80% of plants, fly from plant to plant collecting sticky pollen and storing it in “baskets” found on their legs. This type of pollen is not the dry form that is mainly responsible for allergic reactions. Rather, it is a major food source for the colony, and when eaten by humans it has many benefits because it is rich in amino acids and high in vitamins. Bee pollen speeds healing, revitalizes the body, and protects cells from free radial damage, and it is especially beneficial to the reproductive, immune, and nervous systems. Scientific studies have even shown that people can subsist indefinitely on a diet consisting of only bee pollen and water!
Propolis: Derived from resinous, gummy substances brought by worker bees into the hive from buds, young shoots, or the bark of trees, propolis is used to strengthen the hive, to glue moveable parts, varnish interior walls, and protect from both temperature variations and intruders. This “bee shellac” is also a complete, live, raw food, and it contains many vitamins and acts as an antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant.
Royal Jelly: This creamy, white liquid is synthesized by worker bees exclusively for the nourishment and cultivation of the queen bee. Nurse bees ingest pollen and nectar, process it internally, and then secrete it from glands in their heads. All newborns are fed royal jelly for the first three days of their existence, at which point only a few are selected to serve as queens. Royal jelly is responsible for transforming a common bee into a queen, extending her longevity from six weeks to five years. The chemical make-up of royal jelly baffles scientists because of its highly complex compounds. Royal jelly has antibacterial, antiviral, antibiotic, tonic, nutritive, and anti-aging properties and is impossible to synthesize.