How to Harvest Propolis from Your Beehive
Some beekeepers invest time and effort in harvesting propolis from their beehives. There are several ways to collect it. The bee propolis can be used to make tinctures and other holistic products. Or, the beekeeper may sell raw propolis to supply companies. This is another product from the hive that can help offset the cost of keeping honey bees.
Things Worker Bees Collect
Worker honey bees are well named. They collect everything needed for colony survival. Foraging worker bees collect flower pollen .
They also visit flowers to collect plant nectar. This nectar is made into honey by the bees. Nectar is watery and would spoil quickly. Honey stores well and is used as a long term food source.
The honey bee colony does not store water. However, water is needed for daily hive activities. Foragers collect water and return to the hive where it is used as needed.
However, the workers collect more than just nectar, pollen and water. Bees also collect plant resins. Resins are sticky secretions from various plants and trees.
What is Bee Propolis?
How do you define propolis? Worker honey bees gather plant resins and bring them back to the hive on their hind legs (pollen baskets). Saliva is mixed with the resins to create the substance called propolis.
Another word for propolis is “bee glue”. If you have ever experienced propolis inside a hive, you understand why it is called glue.
Bees coat the inside of the hive with propolis. This is done to polish and clean the surfaces inside the hive. It also seals cracks to keep out cold wind.
Unfortunately for us beekeepers, they stick down every frame. This makes hive inspections more difficult. Some colonies produce more propolis than others.
In addition to sealing cracks and stopping drafts, bee glue also promotes colony health. Propolis has anti-fungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Using a Propolis Trap on Your Hive
The trap looks very similar to a plastic queen excluder except that the openings are much smaller. Worker bees can not move through the propolis trap.
The best time of year to trap propolis is early Fall. During this time the bees are working hard to plug any cracks.
When the trap is placed between the inner cover and top bee box, bees usually fill each cavity with bee glue.
Once the trap is full, or before Winter cold arrives – remove it. After placing it in the freezer for a bit, bits of propolis will pop out when the trap is flexed.
Another option used by some beekeepers is to create a propolis trap using metal screen wire. Placed inside the hive in the same position, the bees will also propolize the screen.
Gathering Bee Propolis Scrapings
One easy way to collect propolis is to scrape it from your equipment. After extracting honey, the honey super boxes can contain some propolis.
A beehive that has failed and is empty is another place to look for bee glue. Scraping is an easier way to get propolis without disturbing the hive.
However, it can be difficult to avoid getting wood scrapings in your collected propolis. Simply use your hive tool to peel the propolis off the surfaces.
After scraping the wooden surfaces, store your propolis in a jar or plastic bag in the freezer. Once you have enough to bother with, you can clean the propolis and prepare it for use.
Scraping Bee Propolis from Equipment
- Spread a sheet or plastic tarp on the floor to catch the scrapings
- Inspect each wooden hive part – looking for sticky propolis
- use your hive tool to gently scrape off the bee glue
- avoid getting wood shavings in the product as much as possible
- when finished – gather your tarp and pour propolis bits into a jar
- store in freezer until ready to clean
Final Tips on Harvesting Propolis
The demand for propolis is very high. Raw propolis can be sold to several online companies. Do a search for them and make a bit of extra money from your hives.
Or, learn how to make your own propolis tinctures, creams etc.- after cleaning and preparing.
Harvesting propolis from bees is another value-added product from the hive.