Bees are perhaps best known for their role in producing honey, but they also create other products that are vital for their survival. In addition to honey, they produce beeswax, propolis, royal jelly and apilarnil. All of these products serve a specific purpose within the hive but ultimately, bees are responsible for a wide range of products that are essential to our everyday lives. To find out more about what products bees make and its purpose, we need to start with what they eat:
What do bees eat?
Bees are primarily pollinators, and rely on pollen to survive. Some of these little creatures are very selective about the type of pollen they collect. For example, honey bees will only collect pollen from plants that produce nectar. Although pollen is vital for the bees diet, there are exceptions. Worker bees burn a lot of energy carrying heavy loads of nectar and pollen back to the hive. To refuel the energy burnt, they mainly eat honey as an energy source. Another exception are queen bees, which exclusively feed on Royal Jelly.
Generally speaking, bees primarily feed on nectar and pollen from flowers during the spring and summer months. During the winter months bees eat the honey they have produced during the spring until fall. While pollen is essential for their diet, honey is their main source of energy.
Nectar is a sugary liquid that provides the bee with energy, while pollen is a protein-rich powder that helps them grow and develop. They store the nectar in their crop, or honey stomach, and then regurgitate it when they return to the hive. In the winter months, when flowers are scarce, bees will feed on honey that they have stored during the warmer months.
Pollen is a powdery substance that bees collect from the stamen of flowers and contains all the nutrients they need to survive,. They mix the pollen with saliva and nectar to form a sticky substance called bee bread (perga), which they feed to their larvae. Pollen is not only important for the survival of bees, but it is also an important product they create. Bees also use Pollen to make honey and wax.
In addition to nectar and pollen, some bees also feed on honeydew, a sweet secretion that aphids excrete while feeding on plant sap. Honeydew is produced by special cells in the aphid’s gut, and it contains a variety of sugars, amino acids and other nutrients. Honeydew is an important source of energy for these little creatures, and it also helps to keep their digestive system healthy. It contains enzymes that can break down bee spit, making it an important cleaning agent for hives.
Honeydew is rich in vitamins and minerals and is also prized by humans for its sweetness. It is often used in desserts or as a natural sweetener. It´s unique moisturizing properties mean that it is also a highly thought after natural ingredient for cosmetics and skincare products.
What do Bees Make?
Bees make honey, propolis, Perga, Apilarnil, Royal Jelly and Wax. These are all important substances they produce to ensure a healthy functioning of the hive. Each of these bee products has its own unique properties that play a vital role in the hive due to its chemical composition.
For example, bees create Propolis, a sticky substance they use as a defense and to seal gaps in the hive. They also produce Perga, also known as ´bee bread´, which is a substance that helps to store pollen. Another bee product is Royal Jelly, a nutritious substance that is fed to the entire brood for a few days during their early development but fed to the queen bee throughout her entire life. They also produce Apilarnil, a substance similar to Royal Jelly that is harvested from drones. Last but not least they produce wax, a product used to construct the honeycombs.
Each of these products play an important role in the functioning of the hive, and without them, the hive would quickly fall apart.