How to make more from your hives by harvesting bee glue
Bees – they’re clever little things. As well as buzzing around making delicious honey, they’re also hard at work making a compound called propolis. Forager bees gather propolis from plants and trees such as the poplar, alders, birch, willows and conifers. The trees and plants in these species produce a sticky resin as a protectant against bugs and fungus, it is this sticky resin that the forager bees are after! Once the foragers return to the hive packed with propolis, nearby worker bees will help remove the sticky substance from the foragers and use it as a sealant in their hives, as well as an embalming agent to cover surfaces. Propolis is also the bees’ disinfectant – one of nature’s most powerful antimicrobials, it cleans and sterilises the inside of the hive.
Packed with disease-fighting antioxidants, it’s no wonder propolis has been valued for its supposed health benefits for thousands of years. Ancient civilizations used it to fight infection in wounds, treat tumors, and help the healing process. The Egyptians even used it to embalm mummies.
Today, propolis is highly sought after as a health supplement and in alternative medicine. It has proven antibiotic and antiseptic properties, and may also be antiviral and anti-inflammatory. People use it in its raw state, and also purchase it in pills, capsules and tinctures at health stores.
Health companies are always looking to buy propolis, and your beehives might be hiding a sticky, brown-ish orange gold mine.
How much can you sell your propolis for?
Selling your raw propolis direct to companies is simple – collect it and send it through the post. Most companies will pay for pure propolis only. That doesn’t mean what you send them has to be pure – it just means they will test what you send, and pay by weight for the pure propolis it contains. You can expect to get around $380 a kilo for pure propolis, and most companies will pay for freight too.
The amount of propolis you can collect from one hive varies. Some beekeepers find they only harvest about 50 – 150g in a season, but using special procedures and a collection mat this can increase to 1kg or more. That’s significant earnings off a single hive, on top of the honey you’ll be harvesting too. To help your bees along the way, increase the ventilation in your hives and station them near plants with those important needle-shaped leaves, so your bees have good access to the sap they need.
How to harvest propolis
The simplest way to begin harvesting propolis is to install a Beetek popolis mat in the autumn, though you can run a mat year-round. Autumn is peak time for propolis production – bees like to seal all the cracks and crevices in their home before the winter weather hits. Reusable and very inexpensive, propolis mats are made of plastic, and have lots of grooves set out in a grid. You can also choose a mat with a feeder hole, which has a hole to allow bees to access the top feeder.
The bees’ instinct is to fill any smaller gaps in the hive with propolis. By placing your propolis mat under your hive mat you essentially introduce huge numbers of small gaps needing to be filled. This helps increase the amount of propolis being collected, and makes collection itself very simple.
Harvesting is easy – many companies will accept your entire propolis mat, with propolis attached for testing.Alternatively you can gather propolis in an airtight container and send full containers for processing. Once the percentage of pure propolis has been determined, and extracted you will receive payment and have your propolis mat returned so you can begin the collecting process again!
Make more from your hives
Even if beekeeping is just a hobby, earning money from your hives can make the whole process a lot more rewarding – and can even mean your hobby pays for itself. Harvesting propolis can really boost your return, on top of whatever you already earn from the honey you collect.