The ability to produce honey is what gives Apis mellifera its common name. Honey bees live in all areas of the world except the extreme polar regions. In addition to honey, these bees use and produce other products, such as propolis and royal jelly. These substances provide ingredients in foods and cosmetics, as well as health and medicinal products.
Bee products come from the substances bees make to support the life and health of the colony. Each bee colony contains drones, workers and a single queen. Nectar from flowers is the main food source of mature bees and is the necessary fuel that allows bees to control the development of larva.
Nurse worker bees produce a substance known as royal jelly. They use this protein-rich paste to feed all larvae for the first three days of life. They stop feeding drone and worker bees the royal jelly after this time, but continue to feed this nutritious substance to the larvae that will mature into queen bees. Feeding this substance to selected larvae throughout the feeding stage is the process that creates queen bees. Queen bees require about 16 days to mature, while workers and drones mature within 21 to 24 days. Royal jelly contains proteins, sugar and fats, as well as a type of acid, known as HAD, the ingredient most likely responsible for the queen bee’s growth.
Propolis is a sticky substance that the worker bees collect from plants and trees. Also called bee glue, the workers use this resinous matter to seal off cracks in the hive. This sticky material contains amino acids, vitamins, minerals, essential oils, waxes and resin. It contains antimicrobial properties that help protect the hive from bacterial pathogens.
Bees carry nectar in their stomachs. After reaching the hive, they deposit the nectar into honeycomb cells to store for later use as a food source. Honey contains water, glucose, fructose and sucrose. It supplies numerous vitamins and minerals. The nectar source, which may include blossoms from trees, weeds, vegetables and fruit plants, plays a major role in determining the flavor and color of the resulting honey.