I had someone on facebook ask me about propolis and royal jelly so I thought I'd share a bit about them on my blog, as much as I know anyway. I keep hearing about all the health benefits and have looked into this a bit for myself so I'll share what I know in that area as well. I'm going to give the short version since the long version can be googled or found in several books. I'm just going to post the nitty gritty.
Short version: Honey comes from the nectar of flowers. Bees collect the nectar, bring it back to the hive, pass it on to other workers, the workers process it internally released enzymes into the nectar to break it down then regurgitating it into the comb. Because nectar contains a high percentage of water, the bees have to reduce the water content and they do this by fanning their wings near the honey comb. Once the water content comes down to a certain percentage (18.6% to be exact) the bees seal off the comb holding the honey, saving it for future consumption (either for themselves or by us... well, they don't realize they are doing it for us because if they did they'd probably poison it). LOL!
Short version: nurse bees secrete royal jelly from glands on the top of their heads. Royal Jelly is used to feed larvae. Initially the bees will feed royal jelly to larvae but it is only used long term if the larva is to become a queen and then the queen continues to eat this throughout her life.
Short version: beeswax is excreted from glands on a worker bees abdomen. It is through the consumption of honey that a bee produces this wax. Bees use the beeswax to draw out comb in new frames inside their hive. Once the comb is drawn out this is where pollen, honey and brood are stored.
Short version: pollen, as most people know, exists on flowers. Bees collect pollen in special little baskets (aka pollen baskets) on their hind legs. Once back at the hive the bees mix the pollen with water and then store it in the comb for both the workers, the queen (pollen helps create royal jelly) and to feed the larvae. Without pollen, bees and the brood would not survive since pollen is packed full of the protein bees need to live.
Short version: Bees collect sap from trees, mainly poplar trees, and after it is mixed with beeswax it is called propolis. This propolis is like cement and the bees use it to seal up the hive. Since the queen hates light and cold drafts can kill brood, all openings are filled with propolis. Propolis keeps bees healthy! Bees use propolis as an anticeptic in the hive, lining the cells in each comb. They also use it to wrap up introducers like mice once they are stung to death. This prevents disease or other bacteria from infecting the hive.
The benefits of all the above are many. I've personally experienced the health benefits of honey each time I've had a cold or laryngitis. Propolis is said to be beneficial when antibiotics like penicillin or amoxicillin have failed. Beeswax has a number of uses including as candles as an ingredient in body products.
To read up on the health benefits of propolis, click here.
To read up on the many uses and studies of royal jelly click here, here, and here.
The many uses of beeswax, click here.
Studies on pollen, click here.
The great thing about honey, click here, here and here.
I've just posted a few interesting links to read on the benefits of the above. I've also listed some links that give details about studies done, some of which show that evidence of benefits on some of the above are inconclusive. I know there is solid scientific evidence to back up the health benefits of honey and propolis but as for royal jelly and bee pollen, although I believe they are beneficial, the scientific community still seems to be debating it.