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How bees use propolis

For centuries humans have been using propolis for a number of different medicinal purposes. However, while our society continues to embrace its many beneficial properties, we were certainly not the first species to realise them.

Although historical records suggest the Greeks and Egyptians originally used propolis as an antiseptic, bees have been utilising this substance to construct their hives for an estimated 50 million years. It almost goes without saying, therefore, that these insects were, in all probability, the first to use propolis and recognise its benefits.

Why do bees use propolis?

Although bees will use many materials in the construction of a hive, propolis is effective for this task as it can be used to build a waterproof as well as antibacterial barrier, which helps to keep these structures safe and secure. Furthermore, propolis can be found inside nesting areas where it is employed to protect larvae from harmful germs.

Bees will also use propolis to prevent dead intruders, such as other insects or mice, from creating an infection risk. By coating these animals in the material, bees can reduce the chances of hazardous germs forming in the creature's remains and further prevent the hive from succumbing to dangerous microorganisms.

In addition to these important tasks, bees also use propolis to seal cracks or other holes within their dwelling, preventing water and predators from entering the hive.

How does propolis make it into the hive?

Propolis is a naturally occurring material which the bees make from resins they collect from a variety of different flora. Once found, these animals will pack the resins into sacks on their hind legs usually used for transporting pollen. It has been estimated that each bee can only carry approximately 20mg of this material in a single trip.

Once this valuable cargo arrives at the hive, the other bees will mix it with several substances, such as wax from special glands in the worker bees' abdomens and saliva from their mouths, in order to make it more suited to their purposes.

Bees – the original propolis users

Bees are much smarter than some people give them credit for. After all, they worked out that propolis can be used to make a durable, hygienic, and waterproof substance before we did.

To find out more information about propolis, and its various uses, please browse the rest of this section.