Honey & Bee Products

Honey is by far the most important product of bees and a high-quality food. It is produced by honey bees from flower nectar and honeydew. Other products produced by bees include pollen, bee bread, propolis, royal jelly and beeswax. These bee products are either used for human nutrition (e.g. honey, pollen, bee bread, propolis, royal jelly) or in a wide variety of cosmetic and technical products. Another form of their use is "apitherapy" (various medical applications of bee products), which in principle should be used only under medical supervision.

Honey bees and their protection are an important topic worldwide, since healthy, efficient bee colonies are necessary both for the pollination of numerous cultivated and wild plants and for the production of the various bee products. The basic prerequisite for this is a bee-friendly habitat with an appropriate range of pollen, nectar and honeydew sources. Equally crucial for a high bee density are beekeepers who are willing to devote themselves to beekeeping and breeding.


Bees need pollen from flowers of different plants for their nutrition, it is their source of protein. However, the pollen collected by bees is also used by humans as food, which is also said to have healing effects.

The pollen is collected by bees from the flowers and carried into the hive in the form of "pollen pouches" on the hind legs. The pollen that has been stripped from the returning collectors by means of "pollen traps" at the hive entrance is called "pant pollen". The pollen stored and processed by the bees in the honeycomb cells is called "bee bread" ("perga").

The unique diversity of pollen

Under the microscope, the diversity and uniqueness of plant pollen becomes visible. However, the precise knowledge of the structure of different pollens is not only of academic interest: Application areas of pollen analysis range from determining the origin of honey to forensics and climate research.

In 2021, two large pollen databases were merged - PONET and PalDat. Our PONET database has the majority of light microscopic reference specimens of the approximately 3,000 native flowering plant species, as well as many non-Austrian species. With more than 35,000 pollen photographs, the PalDat database is unique in its scope worldwide. Its focus has so far been on electron microscopy.

For PONET, our pollen experts have made light microscopic comparison preparations of herbariumized material, measured, described and imaged the pollen grains since the mid-1990s.

The operator of the database is AutPal, the Association for the Promotion of Palynological Research in Austria at the Botanical Institute of the University of Vienna. Palynology is the study of spores and pollen grains. In the PalDat database pollen species can be found both under the Latin genus name and by a combination of different morphological parameters.


Propolis is made by bees from resin they usually collect from trees. The bees' own secretion and honey are then added to this in widely varying quantities. The bees themselves use propolis primarily for sealing, preservation and disinfection. Propolis has an anti-germ and anti-inflammatory effect, and is bactericidal, fungicidal and antiviral. Therefore, this bee product is used by humans primarily as a medicinal or medicinal product.

In the table below from the LAVES Institut für Bienenkunde Celle you will find the most important points about the origin, methods of extraction and ingredients of propolis, as well as other interesting information. A detailed description and characterization of propolis can be found on the website of the Swiss Bee Research Center Bern-Liebefeld.

Raw material Resin especially from buds (sticky mass protects the buds)
Raw material producer Plants, bees collect putty resin mainly on trees (especially poplar, birch, alder, chestnut)
Collecting organ of bees 3rd pair of legs of the worker bees - the bees collect the resin with the tongue and pack it directly into the basket (corbicula) of the 3rd pair of legs (Attention! Not like collecting pollen). When collecting, the secretion from the mandibular gland is added, this makes the resin more pliable.
Transport in the hive The propolis is carried into the colony by the collecting bees, mainly stripped from the legs by other bees and used. ca. 10 mg / collecting flight; ca. 100 g per colony and year
Use in the hive
  • sealing of smallest gaps and cracks (the wider the gap, the more wax is added)
  • light propolis coating over combs (stabilization, disinfection)
  • mummification of invaded and dead creatures in the prey (mice, frogs)
  • hive entrance ("doormat"), flight hole narrowing, etc.
Modification of raw materials To the actual raw material (resin) is added secretion of the mandibular gland, as well as in very different quantities wax from the bees. In addition, propolis may also contain small amounts of pollen and honey, which, however, have adhered to the propolis by chance. Harvested raw propolis contains approx. 40 - 60 % putty resin, 20 - 30 % wax, 3 - 12 % foreign substances such as wood, etc. and 1 - 8 % water.
finished product Propolis
Benefits for the bee mass for sealing, disinfection, stabilization, preservation

Source: Dr. Werner Ohe, LAVES Institute for Apiculture Celle


Beeswax is produced in the wax glands of the worker bee. Bees use wax to make the honeycombs. In these, the bee brood is raised and honey and pollen are stored. Humans use this bee product, among other things, to make candles, as an ingredient in cosmetics and medicines, or in paints.

In the fact sheet below from the LAVES Institute of Apiculture, you will find the most important points about the origin of wax, types of wax extraction, ingredients and other interesting information. A detailed description and characterization of beeswax can be found in several articles on the website of the Swiss Bee Research Center Bern-Liebefeld.

Raw material Raw material: carbohydrates (honey or feed sugar); for the development of the wax glands the bees also need pollen.
Wax producer Bees at the age of about 13 to 20 days (builder bees). They have developed their wax glands optimally and can produce wax.
Production organ of bees Wax glands - 8 skin glands on the abdominal side of the abdomen (3rd to 6th abdominal scale); in builder bees (see above) the wax glands are fully developed; the wax produced is secreted by the glands in liquid form to the outside of the abdominal side of the abdomen and immediately changes to snow-white wax platelets when cooling occurs.
Finished product Beeswax
Wax production and building activity From April to July is the most intensive period of wax production. However, wax can also be produced at other times. The building activity depends on the brood activity and thus the presence of the queen, the nectar input, the outside temperature and other factors.
Benefits for the bee colony

The wax is used to build the honeycombs (consisting of hexagonal cells), which are used for rearing brood and storing stores. The cells for drone brood are larger than those for worker brood. Special queen cells are formed for rearing queens. Both brood and honey cells are capped with the beeswax they produce themselves.

Transport in the hive Construction bees are in the area of intensive construction activity. However, wax platelets can be transported in the colony by the builder bees, held with the mandibles.

e.g. for color change of wax from white to yellow are mainly pollen and propolis dyes responsible. By incubation of the combs remain from the developing bees nymphal membranes and feces. By the storage of supplies (honey, pollen), the coating with propolis as well as also Varraozidbehandlungen the wax is changed and possibly contaminated.

most important ingredients and quality criteria
  • various esters = compounds of fatty acids and alcohols (approx. 67 %, especially myricyl alcohol + palmitic acid and myricyl alcohol + cerotic acid)
  • hydrocarbons (approx. 14 %)
  • free acids (approx. 12 %)
  • alcohols approx. (1 %)
  • a.o.
  • Melting point 61-65 °C
  • Density 0.95-0.965
  • Acid value 18-23
  • Ester value 70-80
  • Color yellow to yellow-brown
  • Odor very typical, honey-like
Harvesting and processing by the beekeeper
  • Removal of combs
  • Melting
  • Cleaning
  • if necessary decolorizing
  • Storage
  • Further processing, e.g. to middle walls or candles
Use of beeswax


  • Candles
  • Middle wall production
  • Additive for cosmetics, paints, polishes
  • release and coating agent for food and tablets

Wax trade in the world approx. 400,000 t / year (approx. 100,000 t China)

Wax analysis for purity
  • sensory analysis (smell, taste, consistency)
  • chemical-physical analysis for purity (melting point, density, esters, fatty acids, etc.)
  • residues (varroazides, pesticides, bee repellents)

Source: Dr. Werner von Ohe, LAVES Institute for Apiculture Celle

Bee venom

Only female bees sting, as the stinging apparatus has developed from a laying drill. In the event of a bee sting, the stinger together with the venom gland is torn off from the abdomen of the stinging worker bee and she dies. The stinger continues to penetrate the skin independently through the movement of the stinging bristles. In the process, the bee venom is injected into the puncture site.

This usually causes pain and sometimes severe local swelling. These can be counteracted after the sting has been removed, for example by cooling the puncture site. People allergic to bee venom usually have more severe reactions to a bee sting. In this case, appropriate measures must be taken after a sting.

However, bee venom as a product is also used by humans for its healing properties. A detailed description and characterization of bee venom as well as information on bee venom allergy can be found on the homepage of the Swiss Bee Research Center Bern-Liebefeld in several articles.



Dr. Josef Mayr

Last updated: 10.10.2023

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