Propolis plays a vital role in the hive as a multifunctional substance that honeybees (Apis mellifera) produce. It is a resinous material that bees collect from various plant sources, such as tree buds, sap flows, and other botanical materials. Bees then mix this resin with saliva and beeswax to create propolis, which they use within the hive for several essential purposes:
- Hive Construction and Repair: Bees use propolis as a construction material to seal gaps, cracks, and openings in the hive. It acts as a natural sealant, helping to maintain the structural integrity of the hive and protect it from external elements like wind, rain, and cold temperatures.
- Disease Prevention: Propolis has natural antimicrobial and antifungal properties, making it an effective tool for maintaining hive hygiene. Bees use propolis to coat the interior of the hive, including the walls, crevices, and even the honeycomb cells, to create a more sterile environment. This helps reduce the risk of diseases and pathogens spreading within the hive.
- Defense Against Predators: Honeybees use propolis to defend their hive against potential threats. They might use it to seal off entrances or cracks where intruders, such as ants or small mammals, could enter. It also acts as a deterrent for larger predators like birds.
- Preserving and Mummifying: Bees use propolis to mummify and encapsulate small invaders or intruders that find their way into the hive but cannot be removed. This prevents decomposition and the potential spread of disease.
- Temperature Regulation: Propolis helps with temperature regulation in the hive. It seals any gaps or openings, ensuring that the internal temperature remains relatively stable, which is crucial for the development of the brood and the storage of honey and pollen.
- Immune System Support: Some studies suggest that propolis may boost the immune system of bees. It may have a protective effect against certain pathogens and contribute to the overall health and resilience of the colony.
- Preservation of Honey: Propolis is sometimes used to seal honey cells, preserving the stored honey by creating an airtight barrier.
Overall, propolis is a versatile and essential substance in the hive, contributing to the structural integrity, hygiene, and defense of the colony, as well as the overall well-being of the bees within it. Its natural properties make it a valuable resource for the bees’ survival and success.