Home ยป Exploring the Functions, Composition, and Physical Characteristics of Propolis in Bee Habitats

Exploring the Functions, Composition, and Physical Characteristics of Propolis in Bee Habitats

by Stargirl

Propolis, also known as “bee glue,” is a natural substance produced by bees from the resin of trees and plants. It serves a crucial protective function for both plants and bees, as it seals cracks and gaps in the hive to prevent the entry of pests and diseases. In this article, we will delve into the various functions of propolis in bee habitats, its chemical composition, and its physical characteristics such as color, taste, and texture. We will also discuss the traditional and modern uses of propolis in medicine, cosmetics, and industry.

The Many Uses and Benefits of Propolis

Propolis is a substance produced by bees and collected from the buds, sap flows, and leaves of plants. It has a protective function for plants, protecting them from microorganisms, viruses, fungi, mechanical damage, and radiation. Bees collect propolis using their mandibles and form it into small balls which they arrange in their legs and bring back to the hive. In the process of forming propolis, bees moisten the resinous-balsamic substance with extract from their salivary glands.

Propolis is collected most frequently at the end of summer, after the main honey flow. This activity is carried out by older bees, who are responsible for collecting and processing the propolis. The chemical composition of propolis varies depending on the plants and geographical region from which it is collected, but it typically contains a mixture of resin, wax, essential oils, and other organic compounds.

Traditionally, propolis has been used for its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, as well as for its ability to promote healing and reduce inflammation. It can be found in various forms, such as ointments, tinctures, and capsules, and is often included in natural health products.

The Functions of Propolis in the Bee Hive

As mentioned above, the substance from which bees make propolis has a primary protective function for plants. For bees, propolis also has a protective function – it serves to improve the quality and construction of the hive, as well as to ensure the necessary hygienic conditions that prevent the development of harmful bacteria and fungi.

With the help of propolis, bees fill all the cracks and excess openings in the hive that are smaller than 5mm. They also use it to seal the entrance in anticipation of cold winter weather, and to completely close any excess entrances (in the entrance hall) when this creates conditions for leaks in the hive. If the entrance is the wrong size, the bees build a sort of propolis mouse guard at the end of summer.

With the help of propolis, bees prepare the foundation of the hive ceiling, for which they use combs (brood cells), and when the structure becomes more complex, they use propolis to fill in the empty spaces and fix the combs to the ceiling. They also use it to seal the queen’s cell when the larva has already hatched and the queen has left the cell.

Propolis has antimicrobial properties and is used by bees to disinfect the hive and prevent the spread of disease. They use it to coat the walls and floor of the hive, as well as the cocoons of the pupae and the bodies of the dead bees, to prevent the spread of disease and pests. In this way, propolis helps to maintain the overall health and cleanliness of the hive.

Composition of Propolis

In addition to plant balsams, the composition of propolis prepared by bees includes bee wax, pollen, and propolis, as well as mechanical contaminants, after partial transformation under the influence of their salivary gland secretions.

The most important component in the content of propolis is wax. The two substances are inseparable – just as there is wax in propolis, there is also propolis in wax. The criterion for the purity of propolis is the percentage of wax in it (8-40%).

Physical Characteristics

The raw propolis is a dense, amorphous mass. Bees usually collect it in the form of balls (using the extraction method with a lifter during the inspection of the bee family), which are immersed in a water-filled jar – the propolis sinks to the bottom, and the wax balls rise to the surface of the water.

Propolis can be offered in various forms:

  • In balls – this is the most natural form in which it is collected by bees and is most often used in its raw form;
  • In pieces – they are obtained by breaking the balls, which makes it easier to measure the required amount;
  • In a liquid form – propolis tincture is made by soaking the balls in a solvent (alcohol, for example);
  • In a ground form – the balls are ground into a fine powder, which is then used to make capsules, tablets, or other forms of propolis.

The color of raw propolis depends on its origin and the proportion of its individual components. It can be yellow-green, green, gray-green, green-brown, yellow-brown, dark orange, carmine red, dark brown, and almost black.

The taste of propolis is described as bitter, pungent, burning, and astringent. Prolonged chewing of raw propolis can cause a reduced sense of taste in the mouth.

The smell of propolis is specific. Fresh raw material is strongly aromatic, while the aroma of propolis weakens after prolonged storage (the essential oils evaporate). The smell of propolis is generally described as sweet. The aroma of fresh raw material collected from poplar buds is more reminiscent of the aroma of amber. Sometimes propolis smells like resin.

The specific gravity of raw propolis is between 1.11 and 1.16 g/ sq cm. It dissolves well in organic solvents such as ethyl ether, chloroform, and absolute alcohol. Propolis is insoluble in water.

In conclusion, propolis is a substance produced by bees that has a variety of uses, including protecting the hive and promoting healthy living conditions. It is made up of plant resins, bee wax, and other substances, and its color, taste, aroma, and texture can vary depending on the source and proportions of its components. Propolis has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it is used in traditional medicine and in a range of products, such as ointments, lozenges, and supplements. Despite its potential benefits, propolis can cause allergic reactions in some people and should be used with caution. Further research is needed to fully understand the properties and potential uses of propolis.

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