Saturday, December 17, 2011

Products of the Bee Hive

Honey bees are managed for pollination service and for production of honey. The honey bee hive also produces a number of other valuable products. The Tennessee Beekeepers Association conducts a series of workshops across the state to train beekeepers in techniques for harvesting other bee hive resources and for making useful products from them. The beekeepers examine various pollen traps used to collect pollen. The traps work by brushing some of the pollen pellets from the pollen baskets on the legs of worker pollen-foraging bees. The collected bee pollen is a complete protein containing all of the necessary amino acids as well as all known vitamins and 25 trace elements necessary for mammals. In North America, the majority of collected bee pollen is fed to livestock. Some trainers feed large quantities of pollen to race horses. The beekeepers also discuss various methods of collecting propolis, the antiseptic, antimicrobial, and detoxifying bee glue that has been used for at least 2000 years. Propolis, the material that honey bees use to varnish their hive to inhibit wood-rotting fungi, disinfect cells before the queen lays eggs, and reduce the growth of numerous strains of pathogenic bacteria, is collected and sold for use in the production of medications.

The text that the beekeepers use in the sessions on producing value-added bee hive products, Health and Healing with Bee Products by C. Leigh Broadhurst, also lists health benefits of honey. The author, a USDA research scientist, explains that honey is a broad-spectrum antibiotic; it is antifungal and antimicrobial; and it is sometimes mixed with propolis for wound treatments. Broadhurst also reveals that the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes present in honey aid in metabolism. The beekeepers also use beeswax to make candles and skin-care products. In today’s picture beekeepers pour beeswax into candle molds. The training sessions are funded by a grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture which recognizes the importance of increasing beekeeper income to ensure continued honey bee availability for crop pollination.

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