Nature's Byproducts: Honeybee Products Besides Just the Honey

Honey is but one of the honeybee products created by ever-industrious honeybees.

| GRIT's Guide to Backyard Bees and Honey 2011

Honey is as sensational as it is sweet, but if you thought that honey-making was the only work occupying bees inside that hive, think again. A mind-boggling array of insect activities is creating amazing honeybee products right under our noses. And our noses themselves even benefit, since some of these products can be used to treat allergies and other common ailments. 

According to the American Apitherapy Society, apitherapy (from the Latin apis for bee) is the medicinal use of products made by honeybees. Step into any health-food store and you’ll find a bee-dazzling selection of bee byproducts for sale from Medihoney to pollen to royal jelly. Not only are these products life-sustaining to bees, they can be helpful to humans as well. A word of caution, however: Not all claims are scientifically substantiated.


Pure beeswax from Apis mellifera consists of hundreds (284 to be exact) of different compounds including saturated and unsaturated monoesters, diesters, saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons, free acids, and hydroxy polyesters.

Beeswax Lip Balm Recipe

Beeswax is made by young bees (2 to 3 weeks old) in the hive, after they feed the young brood with royal jelly and before the young bees leave the hive to forage. Worker bees engorged with honey secrete small, colorless wax platelets (scale-like shapes) from eight wax glands on the underside of their abdomens. These then are scraped off by other worker bees and chewed into pliable, opaque pieces by the action of saliva and enzymes. Once chewed, re-chewed and attached to the comb, the pieces form the building blocks of the hive – the hexagonal cells of the honeycomb.

Wax, this crucial element of the hive, is used to build comb cells for the young, and, when mixed with propolis (photo at right), seals cracks in the hive and protects the brood from infections. Beeswax also is used to build storage cells for honey and to cap the ripened cells.

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