Common Hive Byproducts
Though most keepers associate apiaries with honey, bees do so much more. Hive byproducts light your home, soften your skin, keep germs away, and help boost your protein intake. Let’s take a look at how to harvest, render, and use some of these.
Written by Elizabeth Grant
Bees need pollen to produce honey, but a large amount of what they bring in ends up going to waste. They shake it off or leave it on the bottom of your box. Why not collect it?
A fine mesh entrance is all you need. Simply make the bees enter through an entrance reducer (a smaller slit than usual) and have them walk across a hardware cloth bottom to reach the frames. On their way, they’ll trundle along and knock off a good deal of pollen through the mesh. Attach a platform below the mesh to capture the pollen.
Ideally, pollen should be removed daily. It must be stored in the freezer to be kept as fresh as possible. It can be jarred, bottled, vacuum sealed, or used immediately to make almost any meal even better. Pollen exposed to air for long periods of time tends to go sour.
If you’re allergic to pollen, you’ll want to sit this one out. Those who aren’t will benefit from a high protein and vitamin supplement that can be tossed into smoothies, stews, and everything else.
Beeswax is highly sought after throughout several industries since it’s just so versatile. This is easily harvested, even by those with their first hive.
- Uncap your honey.
- Rinse the caps well through a strainer (cold water only) and allow to dry.
- Do the same with leftover honeycomb, too.
- Place caps and comb in cheesecloth and wrap tightly.
- Boil water in a pot that you don’t intend to use for anything else. Beeswax making tends to leave a residue that is hard to remove.
- Place the cheesecloth in the boiling water and allow everything that will melt to do so. When there’s nothing left, remove the cheesecloth and place the liquid in a ceramic or glass dish that, again, you don’t intend to use for anything else.
- Allow the water to cool. See that golden chunk on top? That’s your beeswax! Like removing fat from a soup, peel the beeswax from the top.
- Use the water as beeswax tea for your winter garden. Many plants benefit from the various vitamins leftover. If not, discard the water.
- Melt your beeswax again, this time using a double boiler to prevent the wax from mixing with the water.
- Run the melted wax through a cheesecloth into a permanent container. Once it cools, you have clean beeswax. It’s one of the most incredible substances our bees give us.
- Use it to make wood polish, lip balm, skin lotion, candles, or any other number of products.
This is what queen larvae are fed until they emerge. This power-packed food is a great find in your hive, but removing it is met with skepticism among some beekeepers. I’m including it here because you can remove it; it’s up to individuals to determine if you should.
Deciding Whether to Harvest Royal Jelly
If your beehive is just getting started, we can’t recommend grabbing royal jelly. However, if you have an overpopulated hive and nowhere to put them, it may be time to start grabbing royal jelly while you have the chance. I recommend only taking a small portion or removing it during typical honey collection. Though you are culling bees, you are culling extra queens. Take note if you have a significant number of them and watch your queen carefully. If the hive attacks her or she seems to be laying at a reduced rate, it may be time to replace her. Hives often know best.
How To Harvest Royal Jelly:
- Uncap cells with young larvae in them.
- Remove the larvae (perfect for chicken food or for reptile pets).
- Process the jelly as you would honey.
- Royal jelly should be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer.
Royal Jelly Uses
Now what do you do with royal jelly? I’ve always felt that it combines the best parts of your typical breakfast spreads. The deep richness of cream cheese meeting honey butter? That’s what my royal jelly tastes like. However, if you aren’t a fan, it does blend well into your morning tea or in a bread recipe. Honey may be added to royal jelly to help preserve it.
Ever wondered how bees keep their hives fresh and sterile? Propolis is the answer. This “bee glue” is a resin made primarily from trees and bee saliva. And it’s fantastic to work with!
- Try to harvest your propolis on a cold day. It’s much easier to deal with when temperatures are below freezing
- Scrape the propolis from its moorings. The best way to do this is in the same way you scrape off beeswax caps. Rake, shake off, repeat. You can shake if need be.
- In a double boiler, allow the propolis to fully liquify
- Much like beeswax, pour the propolis into a glass container through a thin mesh sieve or cheesecloth. This will get rid of impurities. Once it hardens, peel away any extra wax that’s risen to the top. You’re done! Use your solid propolis in any thousands of different ways that this great byproduct has been used for generations.
About the Author:
Elizabeth is a military wife and author. She’s lived around the world, including fantastic destinations like Colorado and Washington state. Inspired by her in-laws, she began beekeeping in 2011 and has managed to keep it up throughout her many moves. Elizabeth is enthusiastic about sustainable living practices and teaches beekeeping classes at her farm in Georgia.