To be more accurate, it is a red-yellow, glutinous resin, having an aromatic odor, and which easily softens when held in warm hands. Bees gather it during the entire grazing season, and mainly before the impending autumn and winter. They collect it from varied trees, most often from the poplar, willow, chestnut and the conifers.
Propolis (Greek: pro- in front, before; -polis- city) is used by the bees to shut, protect their bee-hive. They use it to fill in all the cracks and unneeded holes, to protect their dwelling from the wind, rain, and the like in the ongoing period. They also use it to glue over any foreign body that has strayed into the bee-hive (a mouse, for instance) in order to protect themselves from unpleasant odors and bacteria created during decomposition of a corpse.
If the distance between the bottom board and the frames is too big, bees create propolis and bee-wax piles on multiple spots on the bottom board, in order to facilitate a faster climbing to the honeycombs and descending to the bottom board. Newly built wax cells are washed, propolized by the bees before laying eggs, which is a good way of disinfecting them. Propolis can be collected by the beekeeper from the beehive, from the frames, or in any other way, as a rule only in July. It should not be collected after this date, because in this period it is essential to the bees for both the protection of their home and its constant disinfection.
According to some experts, bees have been on the planet for around 80 million in their present form, and it is not that they have withstood the test of time better than any other species on the planet. Experts claim that the greatest reason for this extraordinary existence is the natural properties of the bees themselves.
There are no ways man could create the properties of honey, pollen and propolis. They even contain certain components that are so complex that their identification and categorization is yet to come. Propolis contains more than 300 different substances. They are divided into 55% resins and balms, 30% wax, 10% etheric oils and 5% pollen. Propolis contains all the known vitamins, except vitamin K, and it has 15 minerals needed by the human body to function normally (it does not contain sulfur). Propolis possesses the following properties:
- local anesthetic
Theories about the creation of propolis
There are two theories about the creation of propolis in contemporary science.
The first theory was postulated by Kuestenmacher in 1907. According to his claims, bees eat pollen and store it in their stomachs. Mixed with water, pollen grains swell and burst.
Afterwards, they exude a liquid used by the bees in nutrition. Bees afterwards secrete a balm, which combined with water and other substances is used to produces propolis.
According to another theory, bees collect propolis stored in resin that is found in tree bark and sweet bud sap of deciduous and coniferous trees. The collected piece is placed next to the basket on the bee`s third leg. The process itself can last more than 1 hour. After the completed work, the bee flies to the beehive where one of the “workers” awaits to remove its burden. A bee can perform several flights of this kind in one day.
Collecting and preserving propolis
Since bees gather propolis mainly in the spring and autumn, it should be collected in this period. The simplest and most practical way to do that is to use a thick plastic foil. The foil is cut to completely cover the brood super and the honey super, and is placed directly over the honeycomb frames. When bees load the honey into the beehive, they do it speedily in order to seal all the gaps between the frames and the foil, thus piling the propolis onto the foil and along the edges of the honeycomb frames. The accumulated propolis should be removed from the foil and the frame edges every 10 days with the aid of the hive tool, with the side used for removing wax and other substances from the honeycomb and bee-hive.
Preserving propolis: the collected propolis is used and sold in solid state or preserved in alcohol. Stores buy it in solid state alone, without any cleaning or milling. After collecting, propolis is packed in nylon bags and kept in cold until sold. Lavender flowers are put in the bags to keep off the moths. The procedure of cleaning and preserving propolis is as follows: the collected propolis should be squeezed out and poured into beer or other bottles up to half a bottle. The bottles are then filled with 96% alcohol. Propolis should be well shaken and left in a closed bottle for several days. After that, the bottle should be shaken and propolis filtered through a filter or cloth to remove the residue. After being purified, propolis is used in medical, veterinary and other laboratories that purchase it.