Autumn is prime propolis-harvesting time for many folks. Propolis has many uses and it can frequently be sold to companies who manufacture medicinal herbs and natural remedies.
If you are interested in harvesting propolis, it helps to have a contraption called a propolis trap. This re-usable, inexpensive object is nothing more than a plastic grid that looks a little like a queen excluder with smaller holes. It is used in place of an inner cover, just below the telescoping cover. The bees get annoyed by the small openings—which are too small for bee passage—so they fill them in with the gooey plant secretions we call propolis.
As any beekeeper knows, the consistency of propolis varies dramatically with temperature. When it is warm, it strings out like soft taffy. When it is cold, it gets brittle and breaks like glass. So after the bees fill in the empty spaces, the beekeeper pops the trap in the freezer for a few hours. Once frozen, the plastic trap can be twisted and the propolis shatters out. Collect the shards quickly before they get warm and you’re done.
Personally, I don’t sell propolis or even collect it—I tend to wear it. Being a lightweight, I’m in the habit of bracing bee boxes against myself when they have to be moved or carried about. Consequently, I have horizontal brown stripes across many of my clothes—more of a merit badge than a fashion statement.
All my clothes are divided into two categories: those with propolis and those without. I turn all the decorated ones inside out before I launder them so the goo doesn’t stick to the inside of the dryer and transfer to everything I own. It’s kind of a problem and, for me, the less I have to deal with propolis the better.
But if you are inclined to collect the stuff, now is the time. The bees like to seal all the cracks and crevices before winter sets in, so now is the perfect opportunity to put your traps in place.
OK, but do you believe there are health benefits to consuming propolis??
Hmm. I don’t know that I have an opinion on that. I know it has antibacterial properties. Plants exude it around wounds and it keeps those wounds from becoming infected with various disease organisms. Whether this can be translated to humans–specifically the human digestive system–I really don’t know.
Research is being done on this and I need to read it before I comment further.
I have so many opinions on so many things. But I leave it to you, Jess, to always find the subject I’m clueless about!
In many countries, propolis use in the treatment many medical conditions. Propolis normally used in the form of the tincture – 70% grain alcohol extract. Here in US, propolis is not very popular and I discovered that people do not prepare it properly. It must be 2-3% in 70% grain alcohol and have distinct odor and brown color. Note that 2-3% is “active ingredient”, we do not count wax and other contamination. Do not use literally black oily substance one could find on farmers market. Instead – ask for raw propolis and made your own tincture (ask if you need a recipe from Sergey). How to use propolis?
It has 3 major properies: (1)it is a potent antibacterial agent; (2) it has powerful anti-inflammatory properties; (3) it is a pain reducer. So, it could help with many skin problems – irritation, eczema-like symptoms, allergic skin reaction, inflammation, mosquito-bites, small cuts, burns, sunburns etc. Never use it on your (or somebody) eyes! Apply propolis solution on affected area and let it dry. It creates a breathable film, which prevents from further infection, decrease inflammation and reduce the pain. On small cuts, propolis could just seal (and heal) the cut, no bandage needed (was used on my kids a million times!). I have a personal experience when I got 3-rd degree burn of my hand playing with fireworks – I covered everything with propolis and keep doing so for a few days – as a result – no scars, nothing… there are tiny white scar showing how my hand might look without propolis – area, which was not covered with propolis.
IMPORTANT: before using propolis, you need to make sure that you are not allergic to “bees-products”. You need to test it first on small area to see that it does not produce the reaction – swallowing, redness, inflammation, shortness of breath. Please, do not use it internally or on your eyes. Once you confident, you could apply propolis many times per day if necessary. Do not put propolis on freshly bleeding deep cut – stop the bleeding first and than cover the area with piece of gauze impregnated with propolis and partially dried (less alcohol)- such “bandage” may stick to the wound, but it is OK, propolis will heal the damage very quickly! Please, contact me if you have any questions. Good luck!
Thanks for another great post. Can you write about pollen traps next?
Thank you for reading! I was wondering if you were still out there. Sure, I’ll try to write about pollen traps in the near future. There’s lots of issues to cover on that subject.
I’m not aiming for the subjects you’re clueless about! I just ask you about the things that I’m clueless about! Ha!
I wonder how the bees gather propolis and why it doesn’t make them stick to what they put it on.
Bees are masters at handling the sticky side of life. I’ve seen them walk on the business side of duct tape with no problem.
I read with interest about the benefits (or not) of using propolis, but having cleaned a few supers of much of it, how do I clean/filter it? As you say it’s tough stuff to deal with!
I have about 2 ounces in bits, including all kinds of detritus mixed in.
I have no experience cleaning propolis. I would imagine you melt it gently and then filter it through something like a paint strainer . . . just guessing. Does anyone out there have some pointers for cleaning propolis?
Thanks Rusty, I will try it!
It will dissolve in Everclear and can then be strained thru several layers of cheesecloth. Weigh the propolis, measure the alcohol, and after straining, you can dilute it to the strength Sergei suggests. That’s assuming you want to make tincture. If not, leave it in a warm place covered with cheesecloth and the alcohol will evaporate. Or you could carefully boil it away. Have fun cleaning that pan tho.
I didn’t want tincture, I was just experimenting to see if “painting” new wood with propolis would make the bees take to it quicker. A. Not so’s you’d notice.
Nancy, I used lemongrass oil brushed onto the inside of the super and the outside of your frames is very inviting to the bees. In my experience, it worked as advertised. The bees pretty much ignored the new super the first time I added it. After brushing it with lemongrass oil, they took to it beautifully. The second attempt was a couple weeks after the first, and the colony that much more robust. They may have moved in anyway due to lack of space below, but I’m willing to credit the lemongrass oil until proven otherwise.
So if you are taking all the propolis out of the hive, will their hive not be insulated enough to make it through the winter?
Beekeepers only remove a small proportion of the propolis from a hive, not enough to interfere with insulation. It would be impossible to take it “all.”
This is my first year ever of beekeeping. There seem to be zillions of them now! So I’m reading up on how to harvest & prep for winter from this group. Thank you!
I like to chew on raw propolis.