Propolis is the material that honey bees and some other bees can collect from living plants, which they use alone or with beeswax in the construction and adaptation of their nests. Most of the plant sources are trees and bushes. The material collected may be a wound exudate (resin and latex) or a secretion (lipophilic substances, mucilage, and gum). Propolis thus has a much more varied origin than any other material collected by honey bees. Analyses of various samples (mostly of unknown plant origin) have shown the presence of over 100 compounds, including especially flavonoids.

A bee that collects propolis carries it back to the nest on her hind legs. She goes to a place in the hive where propolis is being used and remains there until her load is taken from her by bees using it. The propolis is mainly collected in the morning and used in the hive in the afternoon.

Where propolis is available, A. mellifera uses it for stopping up cracks, restricting the dimensions of its flight entrance, and other minor building works. Observations on both tropical and temperate-zone A. cerana indicate that this species does not collect or use propolis, even in a region where A. mellifera does, but uses beeswax instead. Propolis is sometimes used by A. dorsata to strengthen the attachment of the comb to its supporting branch. It is probably essential to A. florea for protecting its nest from ants. These bees build two rings of sticky propolis round the branch that supports the nest, one at each end of the comb attachment, and may "freshen" the propolis surface so that it remains sticky and ants cannot cross it.

To collect propolis from a hive, the beekeeper inserts a contrivance, such as a flat horizontal grid having slits 2—3 mm wide that will stimulate the bees to close up the gaps with propolis. On removal from the hive, the contrivance is cooled in a freezer. The propolis then becomes brittle, and a sharp blow fractures it off in pieces, which can be stored for up to a year in a plastic bag.

The total commercial world production of propolis may be between 100 and 200 tons a year. China produces more propolis (from hives of introduced A. mellifera) than any other country; some South American countries are next in importance. Most importing countries are in Europe.

Propolis has various pharmacological properties, partly from its flavonoid content. It is used in cosmetic and healing creams, throat pastilles, and chewing gum. A few people (in the United Kingdom about one beekeeper in 2000), are allergic (hypersensitive) to propolis, and contact with it leads to dermatitis.

Stingless bees mix much propolis with the wax they secrete before they use it in nest construction; the mixture is called cerumen.

Beekeeping for Beginners

Beekeeping for Beginners

The information in this book is useful to anyone wanting to start beekeeping as a hobby or a business. It was written for beginners. Those who have never looked into beekeeping, may not understand the meaning of the terminology used by people in the industry. We have tried to overcome the problem by giving explanations. We want you to be able to use this book as a guide in to beekeeping.

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