Wednesday, 29 January 2014


BeeBase is the Fera National Bee Unit website. It is designed for beekeepers and supports Defra, WAG and Scotland's Bee Health Programmes and the Healthy Bees Plan, which set out to protect and sustain our valuable national bee stocks.

Our website provides a wide range of free information for beekeepers, to help keep their honey bees healthy and productive.

Make sure that 
you are registered 
with Beebase.

Propolis - what is it?

Propolis is a reddish brown wax-like resinous substance collected by bees from tree and used as cement and to seal cracks or open spaces in the hive.

What is Propolis?

Propolis is a reddish brown wax-like resinous substance collected by bees from tree and used as cement and to seal cracks or open spaces in the hive. Honeybees will use propolis to attempt to seal any gap inside the hive that is smaller than the bee space, approximately 6.3 mm.

Traditionally, beekeepers assumed that bees sealed the cracks and joints of the beehive with propolis to prevent drafts during the wintertime. More recent research suggests that bees not only survive, but thrive with increased ventilation during the winter in most temperate regions of the world. Propolis is now thought to:

  • reinforce the structural stability of the hive
  • reduce vibration
  • make the hive more defensible by sealing alternate entrances

Propolis is derived from a variety of resinous, gummy substances brought by bees into the hive from buds, young shoots or barks of trees and in the hive transformed into a sticky substance of a brown to black colour, an agreeable odour, and a bitter taste. Bees use propolis to strengthen their residence, to glue all the moveable parts, to varnish the interior walls of the hive, to protect the hive from temperature variations and intruders. The trees used by bees to collect the ingredients of propolis are: birch, poplar, alder, fir and others.

The word "propolis" was coined by Aristotle in his work about the generation of animals. "Pro" means in the front of, and "polis" means city, here; the bees' city. Bees use propolis to construct protective walls at the hive entrances, to keep the hive warm and predators away.

The use of propolis dates back to antiquity when the resinous and glue-like properties of propolis were utilized, for example, in mummifying the dead. Propolis was and is used in varnishes. It protects from rusting and aging. Stradivarius has been said to have used propolis varnish in his exceptional violins.

The medicinal use of propolis dates back thousands of years also. Propolis was used in dressings to protect wounds from gangrene, however, most of the scientific work on the composition, pharmacological and medicinal uses of propolis have been done in the last forty years. Propolis is composed of 50-70% resins and balsams, 30% wax, 5-10% pollen, and 8-10% essential oils (Murat, 1982).

Biological Characteristics of Propolis.

Many human cultures use propolis for health preservation. Recently contemporary medicine attempts to investigate specific pharmacological properties of propolis.

Propolis has been shown to have bactericidal, antiviral, and antifungal properties. The antibiotic value of propolis extract varies according to the source of propolis and according to the preparation of the propolis extract.

Alcohol extract of propolis has various strengths found in antibacterial activity against certain bacteria such as Bacillius subtilis (Caron strain).

Propolis extracts have also shown to have antifungal properties. They have been used to treat cases of candidiasis. Vasiliev et al. (1979) performed a study where he treated 40 infants with moniliasis in which conventional therapy had failed, with a preparation composed of 30% extract of propolis in 95% alcohol, water and honey. This preparation lasted 3-5 days. A marked improvement was evident already on the second day, with complete recovery by either the fourth or fifth day.

30% propolis ointment was used also in cases of chapping of skin of infants where a conventional therapy failed. The ointment was applied on infected areas and all patients were cured. 70% alcohol tincture of propolis has been found very effective against Microsporum ferrugeneum , a member of the dermatophyte fungi several Trjchopyta and Epidermophyton floccosum, a dermophyte infecting skin and nails but not hair. The antifungal activity varies with the source of propolis (Braileanu et al). The advantage of the propolis therapy is that it can be applied at home.

Medical Applications of Propolis

Wounds, burns and acute infections have successfully been treated with propolis. Propolis is known to have wound healing and tissue regeneration properties. In the Soviet Union, propolis ointment is utilized during post-operative treatment of the deep burn wounds at the granulation stage to hasten the healing and to prepare the wounds for dermoplasty (Atiasov et al., 1975). Propolis ointment has been shown to increase the production of epithelial cells, increase the circulation, and decrease scar-tissue. In addition, propolis ointment acts as topical analgesic and doesn't stick to the wounds, which is very important for the survival of skin grafts (Atiasov).

Propolis has long been used in dermatology in the treatment of leg ulcers, neurodermatitis and microbial and fungal dermatitis and dermatosis. For the treatment of leg ulcers, for instance, either 30% ointment or an alcohol solution can be utilized (Ghisalberti, 1.c.).

Propolis has been used in the treatment of advanced stages of pulmonary tuberculosis, especially when the traditional therapy has failed or is contraindicated. Propolis has also been used as adjuvant therapy in the treatment of cases of a non-specific bronchitis where a conventional antibiotic has failed (Rux, 1978).

Certain conditions of the gastrointestinal tract also lend themselves to the treatment with propolis. Propolis was found to intensify intestinal contractions and muscle tone.

Propolis has been shown to be a nonspecific immunostimulator. When added in the form of alcohol solution to an immunizing agent, propolis improved the immune response. Protective properties of immunizing agents were markedly improved by the administration of propolis.

Propolis has its uses also in otorhinolaryngology, 5% alcohol solution of propolis was used externally in otitis media simultaneously with antibiotics. All cased studied showed improvement in 5-9 days after the initiation of the therapy. Propolis was found to be especially useful in the foot and mouth disease. All the cases were cured within 3-8 days after the initiation of the therapy. There was one case of allergy which was relieved by an oral antiallergen (Matel, 1975).

Propolis in form of aerosols has been successfully used in pediatrics in cases of nonspecific chronic pneumonia and bronchial asthma. All the children with bronchitis improved. Michailescu (1978) treated bronchial asthma of adults with propolis orally. The results were positive.

Technology of Propolis

There are basically four different ways of collecting propolis; the quality of propolis varies with the method of collection. The oldest method involves scraping propolis from the fames, walls of the hives, and cloth when extracting honey twice during the season. Second method used is adjusting the frame spaces, then propolis spaces, then propolis can be chiselled when inspecting the nest. Third method is changing the cloth (usually twice a year) or polyethylene covers. This method yields the highest quality propolis. The fourth method utilizes a special grate. Two or three of the special Leikart hardwood or plastic grates are introduced into each hive and periodically removed, and propolis collected on the grates is then harvested. At the present time there are several countries in the world, the Soviet Union, Romania, Japan, China, Poland, Canada, and the U.S., that produce propolis containing products for medical use.

In the U.S. there are nutritional and cosmetic products containing propolis. Syrup with propolis contains among other components, flavanoids, ferculic acid, and balsam. This preparation has antiviral and antibacterial properties and is used to treat pharyngitis. Propolis containing suppositories with royal jelly, pollen and honey are used in inflammation and erosions. Soft propolis is used also in the manufacture of cosmetics (Palos


Even though propolis has been known for thousands of years, the knowledge of propolis chemical composition dates back only a few decades. During the last forty years the progress in the use of propolis in medicine has been observed in many Western societies. In medicine, however, propolis is used as an adjuvant, not as a primary therapy. Propolis cannot take the place of conventional therapy. There are still many aspects of propolis that need to be explored in order to be able to utilize its potential to the fullest. Present status of our information indicates a possible preventive role of propolis in cases of the exposure to bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Propolis has very few side effects. There have been reports of allergic reactions, but are rarely encountered. The high therapeutic effect of propolis is poorly understood and needs to be explored. It has been assumed that it is linked with the chemical composition of propolis and possibly with the fact that propolis appears to stimulate the immune response. This needs to be explored further to be able to understand all the aspects of propolis preventive and therapeutic uses.

Source:  BBKA 2014

REMINDER: Member Meeting - Propolis - Magic Medicine

19 February - Members Meeting

The Norton, Cold Norton CM3 6JE
7.30pm for 8pm start

Propolis - The Magic medicine

Guest Speaker:  Richard Ridler

The Essence of beekeeping

National Bee Unit
Best Practice Guideline No. 1.

The Essence of beekeeping

The best way to keep colonies productive is to pay attention to the two major areas of colony management – colony husbandry and disease recognition and control. Colony losses usually occur when these are not effectively addressed.

Inadequate colony husbandry includes:

  1. Poor apiary or hive hygiene which allows disease to take a hold and flourish
  2. Insufficient nutrition - many beekeepers feed their bees but sometimes not what the bees need. 


  1. Regular comb changing 
  2. Ensuring that each colony always has sufficient carbohydrate (honey or sugar) and protein (pollen) as well as access to suitable water sources 
  3. Better choice of apiary site with a wide variety of forage available to the bees 
  4. The best feed is that which is left on the colony. 
  5. Removing less honey from the colony means less feeding will be needed 
  6. Make sure you source healthy disease free queen bees and honey bees stocks from a reputable source, with a known disease free record, preferably locally. 
  7. When sourcing queens, choose a reputable supplier with queens that suit your circumstances. 
  8. Concentrate on improving your stock – cull the queens which least suit your requirements, breed from those which most suit them 

Disease recognition and control should include:

  1. Varroa management is an ongoing task which should be practised throughout the active season, not just in the autumn 
  2. Check for disease each time you examine your colony. Foul brood disease should be dealt with by the bee inspector but the beekeeper can deal with other diseases. 
  3. Colonies not building up and/or showing signs of dysentery should be checked for nosema spp. 
  4. More frequently seen diseases such as chalk brood or sac brood should be addressed.


  1. Consult the Fera National Bee Unit brochure “Managing Varroa” which gives full details of virtually every effective varroa control technique ( 
  2. Aim to have healthy bees with minimum varroa levels to go into autumn and winter. They will have a higher chance of surviving winter and helping the queen to raise brood in the new year 
  3. Foul brood (and other brood diseases) can be identified by reference to the Fera brochure “Foul Brood Disease of Honeybees” 
  4. If you have concerns about nosema, consult the NBU laboratory at Sand Hutton or your association microscopist who will help you identify the presence or otherwise of nosema. 
  5. Changing combs can make a big difference in keeping pathogen numbers down on the combs and therefore controlling chalk brood disease and sac brood; re-queening from a different strain can often help. 

National Bee Unit
Food and Environment Research Agency
Sand Hutton, York. YO41 1 LZ
Telephone 01904 462 510 e mail NBU Web Site: July 2010

© Crown copyright. This sheet, excluding the logo, may be reproduced free of charge provide that it is reproduced accurately and not used in a misleading way. The material must be acknowledged.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Bee fitted with tiny sensors

Thousands of Australian honey bees have been fitted with tiny sensors in a study to help understand what is causing the precipitous collapse of colonies around the world. About 5,000 bees will carry the 2.5mm x 2.5mm sensors, like hi-tech backpacks, for the next two months at the study site in Hobart. The CSIRO-led research will build data on the movements and habits of several generations of bees to shed light on the causes of colony collapse disorder, which causes the rapid loss of bees and has led to more than 10m beehives being wiped out worldwide in the past six years.

Bee-ginner Beekeeping - March 2014


Thursday, 9 January 2014

January jobs

These notes are only a guide and actual timings may vary with your location. Use your records, local knowledge and common sense.

*             Check the apiary periodically to ensure no hives have lost their roofs or got knocked over. If they have, right them and put them back together to give the bees the best chance of survival. Replace mouseguards if they have fallen off.

*             Shade entrances if you expect snow in your district to discourage the bees from flying. On sunny days they can get confused by the sunlight reflecting on the snow, fly into it and perish.

*             Heft the hives (lift them just off the stand) to gauge the level of stores. If they are light, feed candy on the top bars directly over the cluster. Cover with polythene to retain moisture, and with newspaper or other insulation to keep the colony warm. Use an empty super to support the inner cover and roof.

*             Inspect stored equipment and make the necessary repairs.

*             Review last year’s colony records to plan for the coming year. Decide which colonies to re-queen and which to use for breeding.

*             Make or buy any additional equipment you need. You can solve problems with ‘spare’ equipment.

*             Read bee-keeping books, especially if you plan something new like queen-rearing.

*             Attend local bee-keeping association meetings to listen to speakers and discuss and swap ideas with other bee-keepers.

Monday, 6 January 2014

The Rose Hive Method

An alternative type of beekeeping

Rose Hives are more or less the same as ordinary hives, except instead of having two different size boxes (brood-boxes and supers), they just have one size box which can be used for either brood or honey.

Of course, that means that all the frames inside the boxes are the same size too, and that means they're all interchangeable throughout the hive...

Why bother?
Having frames which can be moved anywhere throughout the hive - and boxes which can be put anywhere within the hive-stack - allows for more flexible hive-management and a far better way of working with our bees..

For more information, visit Tim Rowe's website

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Watch the flight of a bumble bee

Fascintating flight of the bumblebee from the BBC

Animal Camera - BBC

Behind the Beehive

Interesting documentary by the BBC on why bees create hexagonal comb rather than triangular or square.

Behind the Beehive - The Code - Episode 2 - BBC Two

Melting, Processing & Cleaning Beeswax Cappings The Easy Way

How to turn your bees wax into a lovely clean wax

Beekeeping for Beginners -- Hive Set Up

How to set up a hive

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Beekeeping Suit suppliers

BB Wear -

Supplier of quality beekeeping suits.

The Bee Shop -

Supplier of a range of beekeeping suits for all pockets.  

Beekeeping supplies and Hives

Blue Bell Hill Apiaries -

Bee Basics -

National Bee Supplies -

Maisemore Apiaries -

Caddon Hives - 

Fragile Planet -
Modern Beekeeping -

Park Beekeeeping -

Peak Hives -

Thornes -

Bee Movies

Useful site for videos on 'how to do' various manipulations.

Bees and Wasps

Information on identification of bees and wasps.

Simon The Beekeeper

Supplier of quality beekeeping suits and equipment, 
including Candipolline Gold.

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Identification of Bees and wasp

Nottingham Invertibrates - Dilys and Trevor Pendleton

Pest control

Pest Control 

Pest control offered including rats, mice, pigeons, geese, fleas, cockroaches and wasps