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Welcome to the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association!

For over 130 years the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association has been serving the Los Angeles Beekeeping Community. Our group membership is composed of commercial and small scale beekeepers, bee hobbyists, and bee enthusiasts. So whether you came upon our site by design or just 'happened' to find us - welcome! Our primary purpose is the care and welfare of the honeybee. We achieve this through education of ourselves and the general public, supporting honeybee research, and practicing responsible beekeeping in an urban environment. 

"The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others."  Saint John Chrysostom 

Next LACBA Meeting: Monday, March 6, 2017. Open: 6:45PM, Start: 7:00PM. Open Board Meeting: 6:00PM.

Beekeeping Class 101:
 Class #2, March 11, 2017, 9AM-Noon, The Valley Hive. See our Beekeeping Class 101 page for details & directions. NO BEE SUITS REQUIRED for this class. 

Check out our Facebook page for lots of info and updates on bees; and please remember to LIKE US: 



Bee Declines Threatens U.S. Crop Pollination

Science Daily   February 19, 2017

A new study of wild bees identifies 139 counties in key agricultural regions of California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, west Texas and the Mississippi River valley that face a worrisome mismatch between falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand. Credit: PNASThe first-ever study to map U.S. wild bees suggests they are disappearing in the country's most important farmlands -- from California's Central Valley to the Midwest's corn belt and the Mississippi River valley.

If wild bee declines continue, it could hurt U.S. crop production and farmers' costs, said Taylor Ricketts, a conservation ecologist at the University of Vermont, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting panel, Plan Bee: Pollinators, Food Production and U.S. Policy on Feb. 19.

"This study provides the first national picture of wild bees and their impacts on pollination," said Ricketts, Director of UVM's Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, noting that each year $3 billion of the U.S. economy depends on pollination from native pollinators like wild bees.

At AAAS, Ricketts briefed scholars, policy makers, and journalists on how the national bee map, first published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in late 2015, can help to protect wild bees and pinpoint habitat restoration efforts.

At the event, Ricketts also introduced a new mobile app that he is co-developing to help farmers upgrade their farms to better support wild bees.

"Wild bees are a precious natural resource we should celebrate and protect," said Ricketts, Gund Professor in UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. "If managed with care, they can help us continue to produce billions of dollars in agricultural income and a wonderful diversity of nutritious food."


The map identifies 139 counties in key agricultural regions of California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas, and Mississippi River valley, which appear to have most worrisome mismatch between falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand.

These counties tend to be places that grow specialty crops -- like almonds, blueberries and apples -- that are highly dependent on pollinators. Or they are counties that grow less dependent crops -- like soybeans, canola and cotton -- in very large quantities.

Of particular concern, some crops most dependent on pollinators -- including pumpkins, watermelons, pears, peaches, plums, apples and blueberries -- appeared to have the strongest pollination mismatch, growing in areas with dropping wild bee supply and increasing in pollination demand.

Globally, more than two-thirds of the most important crops either benefit from or require pollinators, including coffee, cacao, and many fruits and vegetables.

Pesticides, climate change and diseases threaten wild bees -- but their decline may be caused by the conversion of bee habitat into cropland, the study suggests. In 11 key states where the map shows bees in decline, the amount of land tilled to grow corn spiked by 200 percent in five years -- replacing grasslands and pastures that once supported bee populations.


Over the last decade, honeybee keepers facing colony losses have struggled with rising demand for commercial pollination services, pushing up the cost of managed pollinators -- and the importance of wild bees.

"Most people can think of one or two types of bee, but there are 4,000 species in the U.S. alone," said Insu Koh, a UVM postdoctoral researcher who co-hosted the AAAS panel and led the study.

"When sufficient habitat exists, wild bees are already contributing the majority of pollination for some crops," Koh adds. "And even around managed pollinators, wild bees complement pollination in ways that can increase crop yields."


A team of seven researchers -- from UVM, Franklin and Marshall College, University of California at Davis, and Michigan State University -- created the maps by first identifying 45 land-use types from two federal land databases, including croplands and natural habitats. Then they gathered detailed input from national and state bee experts about the suitability of each land-use type for providing wild bees with nesting and food resources.

The scientists built a bee habitat model that predicts the relative abundance of wild bees for every area of the contiguous United States, based on their quality for nesting and feeding from flowers. Finally, the team checked and validated their model against bee collections and field observations in many actual landscapes.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of VermontNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


This "Bee" Drone is a Robotic Flower Pollinator News 12 Now   By: tfyfe    February 18, 2017

(CNN) - In our food chain, honeybees are tasked with a vital function: pollinbation

In North America alone, honeybees’ role in pollination enables the production of at least 90 commercially grown crops, including apples, blueberries, melons and broccoli.

One student wanted more people to understand the significance of bees to human life — so shecreated what’s essentially a “bee drone” to be a functional teaching tool that couples technology and design.

Plan Bee is a personal robotic bee (controlled by a smart device) designed to mimic how bees pollinate flowers and crops. Similar to how bees transfer pollen from one flower to another, the drone sucks in pollen from a plant and expels it onto other flowers to enable cross-pollination.

pollinating bee

Industrial design major Anna Haldewang first developed the idea for Plan Bee in a product design class, after a professor challenged her to create a self-sustainable object that stimulates the growth of plants.

“You need sun, water, soil and cross-pollination for that to happen,” said Haldewang, 24, a senior at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.

Pollination made her think about bees, and in researching, Haldewang was struck by honeybees’ struggles: “I had no idea about the danger to honeybee colonies and that bees were disappearing,” she said. It prompted her to create an educational product that both addressed her class assignment and would help to spread awareness about a bee’s role in the food system.

The bee drone prototype

So she developed the Plan Bee prototype, a hand-sized yellow-and-black device that looks nothing like a bee. She wanted to give it the essence of a bee without exactly replicating the insect, she said.

bee drone
Plan Bee at work

Haldewang worked through 50 design variations before settling on the final version. The device is made with a foam core (to keep it lightweight), plastic-shell body and a pair of propellers to keep it airborne. Each of the drone’s six sections has tiny holes underneath through which the device sucks in pollen from a flower when it hovers over it. The pollen is stored in the body cavity before it’s later expelled for cross-pollination.

“When you flip it upside down, it looks like a flower,” she said, adding it was her way to honor a flower’s role in pollination.

Plan Bee is in its early stages, and Haldewang is still fine-tuning the engineering. But she has already filed a patent application, and she hopes to have a marketable product in about two years.

bee drone concept 2

Her plan for the device, at first, is for it to be an educational tool. “I would love to see people use it in their backyards and even create custom gardens with it,” she said. “With an actual bee, its so small you don’t notice it and how it’s pollinating flowers. With the drone you can see how the process works.”

bee drone closeupPlan Bee drone
Plan Bee is one of 1,600 new concepts that SCAD’s design students develop every quarter as part of their coursework. Victor Ermoli, dean of the school of design, and SCAD founder and president Paula Wallace review each project for its potential in marketability or industry collaboration. Separately, the school also works on 30 projects a year leveraging technology, in collaboration with companies like Microsoft (MSFTTech30), HP (HPQ), AT&T (TTech30), Dell and Mattel (MAT).

Haldewang’s bee drone stood out, Ermoli said. “It is outstanding. The design is self-explanatory and it offers a very clever solution.”

But is it viable? Its application in backyards as a teaching tool has potential, said Ermoli. And the drone could serve an even bigger purpose. “It could conceivably be used in large-scale farming, even in hydroponic farming.”


A Bee Mogul Confronts the Crisis in His Fields

The New York Times    By Stephanie Strom     February 16, 2017


Bret Adee’s family operation provides more than two billion bees to farmers who need to pollinate their crops. Before the hives are moved to the California almond groves where they are used in January and February, they are kept on a cattle ranch at a safe distance from pesticide and herbicide sprays. Credit Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Beekeeping on an industrial scale is central to American agriculture,
and “colony collapse” has proved to be a severe test.

KERN COUNTY, Calif. — A soft light was just beginning to outline the Tejon Hills as Bret Adee counted rows of wizened almond trees under his breath.

He placed a small white flag at the end of every 16th row to show his employees where they should place his beehives. Every so often, he fingered the buds on the trees. “It won’t be long,” he said.

Mr. Adee (pronounced Ay-Dee) is America’s largest beekeeper, and this is his busy season. Some 92,000 hives had to be deployed before those buds burst into blossom so that his bees could get to the crucial work of pollination.

But it is notable that he has a business at all. For the last decade, a mysterious plague has killed billions of bees every year.

“Every year at this time of year, we wonder are there going to be enough bees,” said Bob Curtis, director of agricultural affairs at the Almond Board, a trade group for almond growers.

Pollination services, as the bees’ work is known in the industry, has risen this year to between $180 to $200 a hive from an average of $154 a hive in 2006, Mr. Curtis said.

There would be no almond crop — not to mention avocados, apples, cherries and alfalfa — without honeybees. Of the 100 crops that account for 90 percent of the food eaten around the globe, 71 rely on bee pollination, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Times The Daily 360 

Watch in Times Video »

A mesmerizing look inside the beehives and pollination operation of a third-generation
commercial beekeeper as he ships his bees across California for almond season.

Publish Date February 16, 2017. 
Photo by Melissa Lyttle for The New York Times.
Technology by Samsung. 

Demand for Mr. Adee’s bees is soaring in part because a poorly understood plague, known as colony collapse, has decimated the nation’s bee population in the last decade. The cause is widely debated: Some cite climate change affecting habitat, others the proliferation of certain pesticides, but most believe the problem has multiple factors.

Whatever the reason, in the year that ended in April 2016, 44 percent of the overall commercial bee population died. In a typical year before the plague, only 10 percent to 15 percent would have died, and Mr. Adee’s losses would have been between 3 and 7 percent.

“Over the last five years, I think this small industry could easily have lost $1.2 billion worth of bees,” Mr. Adee said. To put that in context: The total United States commercial bee business had a value of only about $500 million in 2012, according to the Honey Bee Advisory Council, created by Monsanto in 2012 to study its impact on bee health.

Nor is the problem limited to honeybees. The bumblebee was scheduled to be listed under the Endangered Species Act on Feb. 10, but the Trump administration put the plan aside, pending further review. The E.P.A. has not responded to requests for comment.

This is pollination season for America’s almond trees. As a result, in recent weeks almost two-thirds of the country’s commercial bees have started buzzing through California’s orchards. Some of the bees have been shipped in from as far away as Florida.

Adee Honey Farms has some 92,000 hives, each with roughly 40,000 bees, about 3.5 billion bees in total. Most spend the winter here in hives scattered across a 3,000-acre cattle ranch surrounded by low hills with easy access to water, a necessity for such a concentrated population.

During pollination season, the bees are loaded onto a dozen flatbed trucks and nine or 10 tractor-trailers and ferried to work, starting first in the almond orchards in late January, then moving to other California crops like broccoli and avocados. About 10 percent of the Adee bees are dispatched to Oregon and Washington State, where they pollinate cherry and apple trees.

Bret Adee checked inside a hive on a ranch near Bakersfield, Calif. 
Credit Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

They work until early May, when the trucks take them to the Midwest for the summer.

Like other commercial beekeepers struggling with the population decline, Mr. Adee has stayed afloat, in part, by acquiring the colonies of other beekeepers: The number of commercial beekeepers (those with more than 300 hives) has dropped, though no one is certain by how many.

He has also been forced to split his colonies to rebuild his stocks, a process that entails moving some bees out of one colony and fooling them into building colonies around new queens.

Nonetheless, his losses were so high last year that he had to borrow bees to fulfill his contracts. This year, thanks in part to the acquisition another beekeeper’s business, he had bees still waiting for work as he deployed his hives across California in late January.

He attributes this year’s relative good fortune to the decline last summer of soy aphids, a tiny, translucent, invasive insect from Asia that devastates soybean crops in America. Fewer of the pests meant that many soybean farmers in South Dakota delivered only one application of the pesticide known as neonicotinoids, Mr. Adee said, and the spraying occurred before the arrival of his bees. (Adee bees spend the summer in North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota, and Kelvin Adee raises queen bees in Texas and Mississippi.)

Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that are widely used to kill off aphids and other bugs. Some studies tie them to the declining health of bees and a drop in the populations of birds that depend on those insects for food. In 2013, the European Union and several countries in other areas placed limits on the use of those insecticides.

“The more you study it, the more obvious it becomes: the relationship between the pesticides that have been sprayed everywhere over the last 10 years and what’s happening to bees,” Mr. Adee said.

Not that he blames any one thing for the problem. Rather, it is that comprehensive research is rarely done, which, he said, would implicate a variety of factors.

During the commotion of moving the hives, an employee, Alfredo Sosa, smoked the bees
to keep them calm. 
Credit Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

James Frazier, a bee expert at Pennsylvania State University, agreed. The bee shortage has to do with the overall health of bees, and not one or two specific things. Bees are exposed to a variety of pesticides, all of which can affect their immune systems, he said. That in turn makes them less resistant to diseases and parasites carried by the varroa mite and enables the spread of viruses.

“It’s more complicated than trying to cure cancer,” Dr. Frazier said, “because bees are outside, where you have all these uncontrollable things working on them.

Bees from one keeper are mixing with those from other populations as their numbers fall. That may aid in the spread of diseases and parasites, said Ann Bartuska, the acting under secretary for research, education and economics at the Agriculture Department.

“There is no smoking gun,” Dr. Bartuska said. “We still are trying to tease out what combination of factors really leads to beehive health declines.”

Adee Honey Farms was started by Vernon Adee, Mr. Adee’s grandfather, during the Great Depression after he received a letter from his brother in Missouri that read: “I can’t sell chickens or hogs, but I’m doing well with honey. Be advised: Get a beehive.”

Vernon Adee and his son, Richard, raised bees for honey production only. But as that business began to suffer from competition from Chinese and Latin American honey producers, Bret Adee and his brother Kelvin, sons of Richard Adee, figured they needed to develop another business to keep the company afloat.

So in 1990, Bret Adee and his wife, Connie, packed their two children (they now have four) into a truck loaded with beehives and moved to Bakersfield, Calif. Today, the pollination business provides two-thirds of the company’s revenue and all of its profits, Mr. Adee said.

Bees were kept at a ranch outside of Bakersfield, Calif., before being transported
to almond groves. 
Credit Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Because of imported honey, “There’s no money in honey any more,” he said. Nonetheless, his daughter Elizabeth has started selling the family’s honey in farmers’ markets, a tactic she hopes will help revive that portion of the business.

When the Adees arrived in Bakersfield in 1990, there were 411,000 acres of farmland planted with almond trees, according to the Agriculture Department. Since then, the number of acres of almond trees has more than doubled, and growers have adopted techniques that are less bee-friendly.

Growers previously flooded their orchards with warm water in the early spring to prevent frost from killing the buds. The water gave rise to grasses and weeds like dandelions and wild vetch between the rows of trees, giving the bees a source of pollen before the buds burst into bloom.

But now, growers aim to conserve water, and because weeds and grasses can trap cool air that can lead to frost, most almond ranchers spray herbicides to keep the rows between their trees free of unwanted growth.

To safeguard his bees, Mr. Adee’s employees lay a pad made of yeast, sugar and other nutrients under the lid of a hive to give the bees something to eat before the trees bloom.

He also scouts out areas close to uncultivated land or grazing areas with water nearby. His bees spent last fall and early winter in hives scattered about a ranch ringed by the foothills of the Diablo Range and close to aqueducts and other water sources. “They’re far away from anything bad for them,” he said.

At the ranch, cattle lazily grazed in the evening amid neatly stacked clusters of hives, looking on curiously when flatbed trucks pulled into load the bees for overnight journeys.

Hives were loaded by forklift onto trucks. Credit Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

The deployment of bees resembles a military operation, with Mr. Adee serving as its commander. Hives must be loaded onto trucks in the evening, four hives at a time on pallets precariously balanced on a forklift. Each truck transports 216 hives over dirt roads that, thanks to this season’s rain, were deeply rutted and thick with mud.

The Adee bees rent for $200 a hive. On average, Mr. Adee places two hives per acre of almond trees. A 4,500-acre almond orchard would require about 9,000 hives, although growers are free to specify the number of hives they want.

Commercial beekeepers are a tight-knit group, and most new contracts come as referrals from other beekeepers and clients. “It’s kind of like a grapevine,” Mr. Adee said. “If you have to advertise, then you’re not much of a beekeeper.”

During pollination season, he typically leaves home at 5:30 a.m. and heads for an orchard or field to map the day’s plan. He relies on two thermoses of coffee to keep him going.

Placing flags to mark the spots in orchards where hives are to be placed gives Mr. Adee a chance to survey the terrain. If a row of trees happens to have a low spot, he will place a flag a few rows away to ensure the hives do not stand in water. If his pickup slips in the mud, he makes a call to warn drivers not to take their much heavier equipment down the same path.

Mr. Adee marks plot maps with neon Sharpies, using a different color to indicate which crew is to deliver which bees to a particular spot.

After setting his crews in action — roughly 100 employees during pollination season, Mr. Adee then makes a second and sometimes a third round of deliveries to orchards, stopping occasionally to right a hive or gently squeeze the tips of branches to gauge when they might bud. He then has an idea when his bees might need to be fed again.

Hives look like small white dots on ranchland outside Bakersfield, Calif. Demand for pollination services has increased as a mysterious plague known as colony collapse has decimated the
nation’s bee population over the last decade.
 CreditKendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Between stops, he talks on the phone — when his cell gets a signal, that is. In one call, he spoke to his foreman about two trucks needing repair.

Then he called an independent trucker to see if he could move bees that night, diplomatically sidestepping the man’s request that he also hire a friend. “Well, I won’t know until tonight what’s needed,” Mr. Adee said.

After that, he called a lawyer, seeking counsel for a beekeeper who had lost his bees after the ranch across the street sprayed an organic phosphate. “It was an illegal application, and the county knows it,” he said. “But the county is dragging its feet. He needs some help.”

In 2006, David Hackenberg, another beekeeper with a large bee collection, lost 90 percent of them and coined the term colony collapse. Mr. Adee had no such problem that year. I in the documentary made that year, “The Vanishing of the Bees,” he can be heard saying,“We haven’t seen any of this colony-collapse disorder here.”

Shortly after the film came out, though, he also lost almost all the family’s bees.

“Still, I was convinced my problem was a virus, not what David had,” Mr. Adee said. “I thought it would take three years for it to run its course, and then we’d be done with it.”

But the losses stretched on, into a fourth and then fifth year. Last year, after having lost roughly half of his 90,000 hives, he joined Mr. Hackenberg, other beekeepers and environmental groups in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.

The suit contends that the E.P.A. broke the law by failing to require registration of seeds coated in pesticides, as many genetically engineered seeds are. “E.P.A.’s actions and inactions have caused both acute honeybee kills and chronic effects leading to excess bee colony mortality, excess bird mortality, nationwide water and soil contamination, and other environmental and economic harms,” the plaintiffs argued.

There is no federal insurance program to cover beekeepers. The federal 2008 Farm Bill did allocate $50 million in emergency assistance to cover losses in livestock, farm-raised fish and honeybees, but only through 2011.

A year later, the Agriculture Department estimated that beekeepers had spent $2 billion to replace the 10 million hives they had lost in the six years since bee colonies first began experiencing declines.

Here, the almond trees are just beginning to bloom. Mr. Adee’s bees work alongside their boss, who is working the phones.

Someone on the phone asked him to address a matter that had nothing to do with his bees. “I don’t know that I have time for that,” Mr. Adee said. “Or rather, I know I don’t have time.”




BEE CULTURE   By Stephanie Bruneau   March 23, 2016

What is propolis?

Most beekeepers are all too familiar with the sticky, resinous ‘bee glue,’ propolis, lining the inside of every honeybee hive. You can scrape and scrape all you want – the bees will just replace it! Every tiny gap or drafty crack in the hive will be sealed with propolis, which also coats the hive entrance, walls, and even the honeycomb. But in addition to making hive inspections stickier, propolis serves several crucial functions in the honeybee hive, and has been been recognized as valuable by humans throughout the ages.

At once providing structural support and sterilizing action, propolis has been called both ‘bee glue’ and ‘bee penicillin.’ It is strongly anti-bacterial, inhibiting the growth of any bacteria, fungus, or other unwanted microbe that might thrive in the warm and humid hive environment. In fact, the word ‘propolis’ is derived from the Greek ‘pro’ (in front of, at the entrance to) and polis (community or city), meaning ‘before the city’ or ‘in defense of the city’ (ie, the hive). Bees also use propolis to contain potential pathogens brought in by mice and other hive intruders. These intruders will be killed by the bees, and their carcasses mummified in propolis to prevent their decay from degrading the hive environment.

The bees make propolis from tree resins that they collect from leaf buds and tree sap. Worker bees collect the resins and carry them back to the hive on their legs in their pollen baskets. Perhaps because the resin is so sticky, the worker bees cannot unload it themselves (unlike pollen), rather, they have to have another bee unload their bounty for them. The bees mix the collected resins with wax, honey, and enzymes from their stomachs to turn it into the amazing and ever-useful substance that we know as propolis. The end composition is ~50% resins, 30% waxes, 10% essential oils, 5% pollen and 5% plant debris, although each hive’s propolis is a bit different, based on the variety of unique resins collected from a given hive’s local trees.

How is propolis harvested by the beekeeper?

To harvest propolis, the beekeeper places a flexible plastic screen with cracks on top of the frames in the hive, underneath the hive cover. The fastidious bees will quickly work to seal all of the cracks with propolis. This plastic screen can be easily removed by the beekeeper and placed temporarily in the refrigerator or freezer – the propolis, which is soft and sticky in the warm hive, will quickly become brittle in the cold. Flexing the screen easily cracks the brittle resin off of the screen where it can be collected.

How has propolis been used by people – past and present?

Propolis has been used for health and healing since ancient times – at least since the time of Aristotle (384 – 322 BC), who is actually said to have coined the word ‘propolis’ himself! Taking advantage of its antiseptic qualities, Ancient Egyptians used propolis to embalm cadavers. In ancient Greece, Aristotle (384 – 322 BC), the physician Pedanius Dioscorides (40 – 90 AD) and Galen (129 – 217 AD) prominent Greek physician).

In ancient Rome, the naturalist and author Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD) used propolis extensively. In his famous Natural History, he wrote that “propolis is produced from the sweet gum of the vine or the poplar, and is of a denser consistency, the juices of flowers being added to it. Still, however, it cannot be properly termed wax, but rather the foundation of the honey-combs; by means of it all inlets are stopped up, which might, otherwise, serve for the admission of cold or other injurious influences.”(1) Pliny also wrote that propolis “has the property of extracting stings and all foreign bodies from the flesh, dispersing tumours, ripening indurations, allaying pains of the sinews, and cicatrizing ulcers of the most obstinate nature.”(2)

The ancient Jews also considered ‘tzori’ (the Hebrew word for propolis) to be medicine, and tzori is mentioned throughout the Old Testament.(3)

In more recent times there has been a significant amount of research on the biological activity of propolis, and many of the healing properties that so many civilizations have touted in propolis throughout the ages have been confirmed by modern day science. Research has demonstrated its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties, its ability to protect the liver, to increase the body’s natural resistance to viruses and infections, to heal problems of the mouth and gums, and to treat peptic ulcers (among other attributes). At least 180 different compounds have been identified so far.

Today, propolis is used as a popular remedy. Current sales of propolis in the United States are estimated at 40,000 lb/yr. Because of its long and varied list of touted benefits, the range of uses is long and varied in home remedies and body care products. It is available in capsules, as an extract in alcohol or glycerin, as a mouthwash, and can be found in many creams and cosmetics.


You can make your own products from raw propolis very easily! You can collect propolis using a propolis trap as described above, or you can scrape small amounts from the edges and sides of your hive components.

Raw propolis can be easily infused into a topical cream or oil, a liquid (propolis extract), and can be purchased at your local natural foods store in capsule form as well. Together these products are an amazing defense system at your service, with an ability to assist your body with healing and germ fighting.

Propolis Infused Oil

Of all methods of infusion, research indicates that an oil extract of propolis may have the strongest anti-microbial effect. Applied topically, propolis oil is soothing and healing on cuts and abrasions. Propolis infused oil can be used as an ingredient in lotions or salves, and can work wonders on areas of skin irritation or severe dryness such as psoriasis or eczema.


  • ~10 grams propolis scrapings (about 1 TBS)
  • 7 oz olive oil (other oils can be used, such as apricot kernal oil, sweet almond oil, etc.)
  • Method

    Mix the propolis and oil together in the top of a double boiler. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and heat the oil to no higher than 122°F (as higher temperatures may destroy some of the beneficial qualities contained in the propolis). Stir and heat for at least 30 minutes, and up to four hours. The propolis will not all dissolve.

    Strain this mixture through cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter. If you use cheesecloth, you may have to filter the oil twice. The propolis that remains in the filter can be used again to make more oil – refrigerate or freeze it for another time. Store your finished oil in a sealed jar in a dark place.
    Keep in an amber dropper bottle, and store in your medicine or kitchen cabinet.

    Propolis Tincture

    Mix two parts propolis by weight to nine parts of clear grain alcohol, by weight (we use 75 proof or higher vodka, or Everclear) (Do not use ethanol alcohol – it is poisonous!).

    Mix together in a lidded container, such as a canning jar.  Shake.  Store in a dark place. Shake two to three times a day for one to two weeks. Strain through a cheesecloth or paper coffee filter, and store in a dark place or in a dark jar. You can collect and store the propolis left in in the filter, as it may be reused for another tincture or oil (store in the fridge or freezer).

    Keep in an amber dropper bottle, and store in your medicine or kitchen cabinet.

    Herbal Mouthwash

    Use this as a rinse after brushing at night, and keep the dentist away!

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 2 dropperfuls calendula tincture
  • 2 dropperfuls echinacea root tincture
  • 1 dropperful myrrh tincture
  • 2 dropperfuls propolis tincture
  • 1 drop peppermint or spearmint essential oil (I actually like it better without this! But others who are used to a minty flavor enjoy this optional addition).
  • (Note that the essential oils and calendula, echinacea and myrrh tinctures can be found in a natural food store.)

    Honey Propolis Throat Spray

    Spray in the back of the mouth anytime sore throat hits! This powerful spray can be great to prevent bacterial throat infections such as strep throat.

    – Mix three TBS of propolis tincture (see recipe above) with two TBS of raw local honey and one TBS of warm water in a spray bottle. The propolis tincture can be combined with other herbal tinctures as well for their immediate relief and longer-lasting benefits in the face of illness; our favorites are echinacea, marshmallow, ginger and/or elderberry tinctures, all of which can be found in a natural food store.

    Stephanie Bruneau is beekeeper, mom, herbalist and artist. She runs The Benevolent Bee selling honey, candles and beeswax-based body care products. She is a co-founder and of the Boston Area Beekeepers Association.
    1. Bostock J, Riley HT, editors. Pliny the Elder, the Natural History, Book XI. The Various Kinds of Insects. London, UK: Taylor and Francis; 1855.


    2. Bostock J, Riley HT, editors. Pliny the Elder, the Natural History, Book XXII. The Properties of Plants and Fruits. London, UK: Taylor and Francis; 1855.

    3. The Bible. Jeremiah 8, verse 22, Jeremiah 46, verse 11, Jeremiah 51, verse 8.



    Bee Products for Better Health, C. Leigh Broadhurst, PhD, 2013

    Grange, J. M., and R. W. Davey. “Antibacterial properties of propolis (bee glue).” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 83.3 (1990): 159-160.

    Castaldo, Stefano, and Francesco Capasso. “Propolis, an old remedy used in modern medicine.” Fitoterapia 73 (2002): S1-S6.

    Ghisalberti EL (1979). Propolis: A review. Bee World, 60, 59-84.

    Burdock, G. A. “Review of the biological properties and toxicity of bee propolis (propolis).” Food and Chemical toxicology 36.4 (1998): 347-363.

    Kuropatnicki AK, Szliszka E, Krol W. Historical Aspects of Propolis Research in Modern Times. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2013;2013:964149. doi:10.1155/2013/964149

    Havenhand, Gloria. Honey Nature’s Golden Healer. Firefly Books, 2011.

    The Bible

    Bostock J, Riley HT, editors. Pliny the Elder, the Natural History, Book XI. The Various Kinds of Insects. London, UK: Taylor and Francis; 1855.

    Bostock J, Riley HT, editors. Pliny the Elder, the Natural History, Book XXII. The Properties of Plants and Fruits. London, UK: Taylor and Francis; 1855.

    (NOTE: We were discussing propolis at a recent LACBA meeting. Here's some more info from a March 23, 2016 post in Bee Culture.)


    Bees Learn While They Sleep, And That Means They Might Dream

     A new study suggests that bees can store information in long-term memory 
    while they sleep, just like humans do when we dream

    For all our obvious differences, humans and honeybees share some common threads within the fabric of life.

    We are both social species. While humans speak and write to communicate, honeybees dance to one another; waggling their bodies for specific durations at angles that indicate where the best pockets of nectar or pollen are to be found outside the hustle and bustle of the nest.

    But only forager bees – the eldest of several types of honeybee castes – do this. Just like in human populations, the honeybee colony is divided into different sectors of work. There are cleaners, nurses, security guards, not to mention collection bees whose sole job is to cache nectar in comb. 

    Different honeybees do different jobs in the colony (Credit:Pete Oxford/ 

    Different honeybees do different jobs in the colony (Credit:Pete Oxford/


    As they age, honeybees are promoted through a diverse career, from waste disposal to the more familiar forager.

    But it is not all work, work, work. Busy bees have to sleep, too.

    Similar to our circadian rhythm, honeybees sleep between five and eight hours a day. And, in the case of forager bees, this occurs in day-night cycles, with more rest at night when darkness prevents their excursions for pollen and nectar.

    But, given that a hive's primary purpose is productivity and yield, why should a large portion of the population seemingly waste up to a third of the day resting? What are the benefits of sleep?

    Over the last few years, a handful of scientists have started to uncover why honeybees need to rest; their findings adding to the list of threads that we share. 

    What goes on inside that head? (Credit: Kim Taylor/ 

    What goes on inside that head? (Credit: Kim Taylor/ 

    Ever since Aristotle studied the monarchy of the honeybee colony in the 3rd Century BC, the species Apis mellifera has been studied by generations of dedicated scientists, each able to discover something entirely new.

    "The bee's life is like a magic well: the more you draw from it, the more it fills with water," wrote Karl von Frisch, the German Nobel laureate who decoded their waggle dances, in 1950.

    It was in 1983 that a researcher called Walter Kaiser made a new discovery: that honeybees slept. As he watched through his observation hive, Kaiser noted how a bee's legs would first start to flex, bringing its head to the floor. Its antennae would stop moving. In some cases, a bee would fall over sideways, as if intoxicated by tiredness. Many bees held each other's legs as they slept.

    Kaiser's study was the first record of sleep in an invertebrate. But it was far from the last. The scuttle of cockroaches, the flutter of fruit flies, and the rhythmic undulations of jellyfishes all have temporary periods of quiescence. 

    Even jellyfish seem to sleep (Credit: Aflo/ 

    Even jellyfish seem to sleep (Credit: Aflo/  

    "The evidence appears to align with this idea that sleep is shared across all animals," says Barrett Klein, a sleep biologist from the University of Wisconsin Wisconsin–La Crosse. "There's no universally-accepted exception."

    Being so prevalent, sleep seems to be a very important part of complex life. To understand why honeybees sleep, a long line of scientists has been keeping forager bees up at night. How do they function sans sleep? Not well, it seems.

    For one, they cannot communicate properly. Instead of performing their waggle dances with incredible accuracy, sleepy bees become sloppy. Their interpretive dances fail to translate the direction of a profitable food source.

    And since their nest mates use this information as a guide for their foraging trips, they are likely to be sent slightly astray, wasting time and energy on the wing. The whole colony suffers. 

    It's not all work, work, work (Credit: MD Kern Palo Alto JR Museum/ 

    It's not all work, work, work (Credit: MD Kern Palo Alto JR Museum/ 

    Further, sleep-deprived honeybees find it difficult to return to the hive when visiting fresh flower patches, spending more time reorienting themselves with the sky and surrounding landmarks as their compass. Many even get lost and never return, so their rest becomes much more permanent.

    Without a good night's sleep, then, honeybees start to forget the activities that should be second nature to them. And in a study released in 2015, Randolf Menzel and his colleagues from the Free University of Berlin provided a possible explanation as to why this might be.

    As is well-documented in humans, deep sleep (known as slow-wave sleep) consolidates memories, transferring them from short-term to long-term memory. Menzel and his team wanted to know whether the same was true for the humble honeybee.

    First, they had to teach them something new; only then could they test the quality of their short-term to long-term memory transfer. They chose a tried-and-tested protocol, developed by Menzel himself in 1983.

    When feeding, honeybees exhibit a stereotyped behaviour: sticking out their long tubular mouthparts, or proboscis, to slurp up dinner. But, by presenting honeybees with a specific odour and burst of heat as they feed, this proboscis extension response (PER) can be elicited even when there is no food available.


    Bees have busy lives (Credit: Kim Taylor/ 

    Bees have busy lives (Credit: Kim Taylor/ 

    It is the honeybee equivalent of the famous Pavlov's dog response. Rather than a bell, the bees associate the odour-heat combo with food and try to feed.

    Only it is much easier to condition bees than dogs. Honeybees are quick learners, associating the odour and heat with food after one to three trials. After that, PER happened without the need for a reward.

    "If you work with them, you realise very quickly that they are very smart," says Hanna Zwaka, one of the study's authors. "They are also very sweet to watch while they are learning."

    Once conditioned, the bees were allowed a full night's sleep within their own personalised plastic tube. As they slept in solitude, the team exposed some of the honeybees to the conditioned odour-heat combo during different sleep stages, ranging from light sleep to deep sleep, allowing any activity in their brains to be further stimulated.

    As a control, a separate group of bees were exposed to a neutral odour – paraffin oil – that would not reactivate any conditioned responses.

    When the honeybees woke the next day, the memory tests could begin. Did the bees with the night-time reminders hold on to their conditioned response – sticking out their proboscis – for longer than those without? 

    When honeybees wake, do they remember? (Credit: Phil Savoie/ 

    When honeybees wake, do they remember? (Credit: Phil Savoie/ 

    Yes, but only when the odour and heat were presented in the deep-sleep stage, just like we would expect for a sleep-reinforced memory in humans. Presenting the odour and heat during other, lighter stages of sleep offered no advantage in memory retention.

    Although their bodies might be inactive during deep-sleep, honeybee brains do not seem to be. The previous day's activities are reactivated, stabilising fragile memories and converting them into a more permanent form that can be accessed the next day – or perhaps even further in the future.

    In sleeping rats, memory consolidation has been shown to work like replaying a tape: any learned responses, such as completing a complex maze, are repeated over and over again in the same sequence that they occurred; right turn by wrong turn, neuron by neuron in the brain. 

    Sleeping rats are still learning (Credit BonkersAboutScience/Alamy) (Credit: Credit BonkersAboutScience/Alamy) 

    Sleeping rats are still learning (Credit BonkersAboutScience/Alamy) 

    Menzel and colleagues' study adds some tantalising evidence that the same might be occurring in bees.

    "It's a beautifully conducted study with regard to memory," says Klein. But he has some caveats: "Whether or not the results relate to deep sleep is up for discussion." No study has yet clearly demonstrated stages or depth of sleep in insects, he says; only promising hints and suggestions.

    Both labs hope to replicate these results with more streamlined, and telling, methods.

    With the possibility of memory reactivation in the bees' sleepy heads, Menzel's work begs the question of whether honeybees dream.  

    Do bees dream of these? (Credit: Sunny_mjx/CC by 2.0) 

    Do bees dream of these? (Credit: Sunny_mjx/CC by 2.0)  

    In humans, dreams were thought to be a phenomenon of REM sleep, thus limiting the possibility of dreaming to mammals, birds, and (more recently) reptiles; animal groups that exhibit similar eye-fluttering stages of sleep. 

    But this is not the case. Over recent decades, studies have revealed that dreaming can also occur during slow-wave sleep, the analogue of honeybees' deep-sleep.

    When woken from slow-wave sleep, people often recall basic non-narrative dreams such as a house, faces, or a pet. "[Therefore], if bees dream at all, it would be very basic dreaming," says Zwaka. "A special odour, for example. Or a colour of flowers, like yellow or blue."

    The magic well of bee biology is still nowhere near empty.

    (NOTE: Even though this article by Alex Riley is dated June 25, 2016, it came through our LACBA Facebook feed today from the Western Apiculture Society and the American Beekeeping Federation - it is too amazing, informative, and has such beautiful images of bees, I simply had to share it with all of you.)