Module 15: Hive Value Added Products

Table of Contents

Introduction to Hive Value Added Products

Good day, I am Gladstone Solomon, and I am Sharon Solomon. We are the owners of Solomon Apiaries, from Mesopotamia, Tobago.

We are here today to speak about value-added hive products. The information presented is sourced principally from two publications:

  1. Value-added products.  FAO Agricultural Services Bulletin #124. 
  2. Good beekeeping practices for sustainable apiculture.  FAO Animal Production And Health / Guidelines #25

Both publications can be downloaded  from FAO website https://www.fao.org

Major Bee Hive Products

The major primary products harvested from beekeeping are honey, beeswax, pollen and propolis. These products can be used or consumed in the state in which they were produced by the bees or they can be used as ingredients for other products, thereby adding value to these. 

Hence the name “value added” products from beekeeping. Even so, some of these primary products only have a limited market until they are added to more commonly used value-added products.

Honey Can Be Marketed As...

Honey is the most important primary product from beekeeping both from a quantitative and an economical perspective.

Honey can be marketed, in its liquid form as Extracted Honey, in the comb as Comb Honey, in a combined extracted & comb form as Chunk Honey, and In a crystallised form as Creamed Honey.

Honey: Value-Added Uses As A Food Ingredient

On its own, honey is a valuable raw material that can be used to give greater value to:

  • Baked products  
  • Confectionary and snack bars
  • Beverages and ice creams
  • Nuts, fruits, and dried herbs
  • Fermented beverages
  • Honey is also commonly used as a medicine-like product

How To Make Infused Honey

You can infuse honey with pepper, rosemary, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and star anise, just to name a few.

In order to make infused honey, you simply place 1-2 tablespoons of the dried herb into 1 cup of honey.

You mix this carefully together, tightly cover the jar and store this in a dark place, turning over the jar daily.

After this time (1 to 6 weeks depending on the herb), you strain the herbs out and what is left is herb-infused honey.

Beeswax

Beeswax is a natural product made in the abdominal glands of honeybees. The bees use the wax to create hexagonal cells in which they raise their young and store food. They also use wax to cap the brood and honey cells. 

When harvested, beeswax is used an ingredient in a number of value-added products such as:

  • Foundation sheets
  • Lip balm, skin and hair care products
  • Leather care – conditioning, polishing and weather-proofing
  • furniture polish
  • Candles
  • Surface protection – skin, leather
  • Textiles and paper
  • Arts and craft

Rendering Beeswax

Rendering wax refers to melting and removing impurities from the wax. Rendering is best done by using a slow cooker, crock pot, or a double boiler. When rendering the wax, consider using dedicated utensils, since they will get coated with wax over time. The average melting point is between 62 and 64 degrees Celsius. If the temperature gets too high, the wax will get discolored. 

Wax may re-harden and if it does, you can simply reheat to melt again. Rendered wax may be cream or white in colour and will get darker with age.

Foundation Sheet To Frame

Rendered wax may be used to make foundation sheets for frames for hive boxes. This is done in a number of ways but the most popular method involves pouring the melted wax onto a foundation sheet mould and letting it dry. 

Another method involves rolling wax sheets through a press. Either way, the resulting embossed sheet is hand woven between wires on the frames, and the frames are then put into the hives for the bees to expand.

How To Make Beeswax Products

This slide summarizes some basic recipes for making a few beeswax products. Most involve adding an essential oil such as coconut oil or cocoa butter, as well as a fragrance such as lavender or peppermint to the skin creams and candle. 

It is important to note here that you should experiment with your ingredients to produce your personal recipes which you can replicate for your products. The sky is the limit!

What is Propolis?

Propolis is a mixture of resins from trees and secretions from bees, a combination that yields a natural antibiotic. It is referred to as the immune system of the hive since bees do not possess one. 

Propolis consist of approximately: 

  • 45-55% tree resins
  • 25-35% waxes & fatty acids
  • 10% essential oils
  • 5% pollen
  • 5% other organics & minerals

The most important use of propolis in the beehive is as a disinfectant of all the surfaces to ensures that they remain clean. The bees used propolis to encase dead intruders that are too heavy for them to remove.

Health Benefits Of Propolis

Propolis has been used for medical purposes for thousands of years, but the scientific evidence of its effects has only recently started to be compiled.

There are numerous studies demonstrating the health benefits of various propolis preparations, particularly from Eastern European countries, where there is widespread use of apitherapy as a traditional alternative medicine. However, most of these are not suitable for documentation in other countries.

Better documentation of the health benefits of propolis would make it easier to advocate for its use.

Collecting Propolis

Some beekeepers have a routine of scraping off all propolis from the comb frames and the hive box as they go through their colonies. This propolis contains many impurities, like wood or the remains of dead bees which makes it not suitable for human use. 

The best way to collect most of the propolis is with special plastic nets or screens that are placed on the hive late in the honey flow season.

Propolis: Formulation And Application Methods For Humans And Animal Use

Raw Propolis

Unprocessed propolis can be used in chunks, or it may be frozen and broken or ground to fine powder. Large pieces of pure propolis can be chewed, but it should only be consumed in small quantities, since it may cause stomach upset. Smaller pieces and powders can be taken in capsules or mixed with food or drinks.

Liquid Extracts

Most commercial uses of propolis are based on preparations made from primary liquid extracts. The raw material is rarely suited for direct inclusion in final products. Similarly, for most private or small scale uses, raw propolis is usually treated with a solvent and only the resulting extract is used.

A large variety of organic solvents might be applied but only a few are non-toxic and can be used safely for internal and external applications with humans and animals. The most commonly used is ethanol. A knowledgeable pharmacist or cosmetic chemist can select a few other non-toxic solvents for special applications.

Additives and Tablets

Propolis or its extracts can be taken with, or be used as an additive to other medicinal, dietetic and cosmetic preparations. Ethanol extracts can be directly mixed with most foods, medicines or cosmetics. Propolis extract paste can easily be included in tablets or sweets.

Injection

For experimental purposes with animals, special extracts of propolis were injected. The results were positive and injectable extracts for humans may become feasible in the near future.

How To Make Propolis Tincture

There are many recipes for propolis tincture. Generally, the propolis is placed in a sealed container with equal amounts of ethanol. With 96-percent ethyl alcohol, most of the propolis is dissolved. 

The container is shaken daily for two to three months, after which it is left untouched for several weeks, until the propolis remains have completely settled. At this point, it is easy to separate the tincture from the remains, which are mainly wax. It can also be filtered. 

You can dissolve smaller amounts of propolis in oil or water, but this is a more difficult process. The tincture must be stored in airtight containers and protected from sunlight.

Propolis Creams

Propolis is also used in creams and shampoos to deal with a host of human and pet skin conditions such as rashes, burns, insect bites, acne, shingles, ulcers, bed sores, dry skin, age spots, blisters and dandruff.

What Is Pollen? How Is It Collected?

Honeybees are mainly attracted to the nectar and pollen that plants provide. Pollen grains are small, male reproduction units formed in flowering plants. The pollen sticks to the hairs all over the bees’ body. 

The bee grooms the pollen out of its hairs with its legs and stores it in its “pollen baskets” located on its hind legs. During this process, the honeybee also pollinates the respective flowers. The pollen is mixed with nectar and secretions which helps the pollen stick together and to the pollen basket. It is then transported back to the colony. 

 

In the hive, the pollen load is removed from the honeybee’s hind legs. Honey and other secretes are added to the pollen, after which it is placed into storage cells. Among the secretes are microorganisms that begin to ferment, transforming the pollen into a substance known as “bee bread”. 

The fermentation process preserves the pollen and makes it more digestible. Bee bread is a highly valued honeybee product in some countries.

Traditional Uses Of Pollen (Not Scientifically Confirmed)

Pollen is sold grounded, in pills, frozen and dried. The major use is as a food or, more correctly, as a food supplement. It is used an energy and nutritive tonic which is added to tea or vegetable or fruit juices. It can also be added to energy snacks and other uncooked foods.  It has also been included in skin scrubs. 

Pollen’s likely value as a food for humans is frequently overstated and has never been proven in controlled experiments. It is not a perfect food, as stated on many advertisements, food packages and even in various non-scientific publications. This does not mean that its consumption may not be beneficial, as has been shown scientifically with various animal diets.

The only serious problem with incorporating pollen in foods like candy bars, sweets, desserts, breakfast cereals, and even cosmetic preparations is the widespread allergic susceptibility of people to pollen from a wide variety of species 

In order to desensitize allergic patients, pollen is usually collected directly from the plants, to allow proper identification and purity. Desensitization through ingestion of pollen is claimed, but has not received any scientific confirmation.

For treatment of various prostate problems, pollen is usually prescribed in its dry or frozen pellet form as collected by the bees. Pollen from different countries or regions seems to work equally well. However, pollen has not been officially recognized as a medicinal drug.

The Value of Pollen in beekeeping

Pollen provides the only source of protein and all the amino acids required for honeybee brood production. Therefore, during periods of brood production, honeybees will actively collect both nectar and pollen. 

Over the course of a season, a large honeybee colony may consume 25–35 kg of pollen. The pollen load that a honeybee can bring back from a single trip weighs around 8 mg, so a considerable number of flights are required to meet the colony’s pollen needs. 

 

A diverse pollen diet is an important component of building healthy honeybee colonies. If different plants are available, the bees will collect pollen from different plant species. Therefore, if beekeepers want to harvest pollen, it is of utmost importance that they leave enough pollen for the bees to meet their own needs.

 

It is also important to remember that pollen is a much more sensitive product than honey. Honey is more or less self-preserved whereas pollen easily binds to moisture in the air. If pollen is exposed to humidity for some time, it may be spoiled by microorganisms, particularly mould.

Summary

Honeybee hives provide many other primary products other than honey. In addition to honey, we covered beeswax, propolis and pollen. There is also royal jelly, queen and worker bees, as well as drones (male bees). 

These products can be used in the state in which they were produced by the bees, or they may form part of the ingredients of another product thereby adding value to such products. 

These value-added products can offer livelihood opportunities for those interested in pursuing them and additionally allow for persons to express their creativity in their development.

Ready to test your knowledge? Request the final exam for Module 15.