The Incredible Properties of Propolis

By Tristan Hooker/MediaPA

As if honey bees couldn’t get any more delightful, these tireless workers, the only insect to produce food eaten by man, are also skilled chemists.

By chewing sap from trees and sticky buds from plants, then mixing it with their own unique enzymes, honey bees are able to produce an extraordinary substance called propolis.

Summerglow Apiaries of Te Kowhai, Hamilton, are long-time beekeepers and value the sticky substance collected from their hives.

“This stuff here on top of the frame [see photo] is propolis,” says Alan Bennett of Summerglow.  It has a high antioxidant level and is used in medications and skincare.

“One of the things bees use propolis for is glue,” he says, “a building material they use in construction and repair of the hives.  The natural chemicals in propolis protect the hive from funguses and bacteria.”

For hundreds of years, beekeepers believed bees were using propolis to seal the beehive, completely protecting it against drafts. However, modern research has revealed bees prefer to have a certain amount of ventilation in the hive.  Therefore, they deliberately leave small gaps between propolis seals.

Alan Bennet says bees also turn to propolis if they detect a threat in the hive. 

Bees will use Propolis to coat any items within the hive that could cause harm to the colony, such as predatory rodents and larger insects like bumble bees and wasps.  Bees are only small and if they can’t move it outside they will cover it in propolis.”

Propolis is currently being researched for its potential in the development of new drugs.  Some studies have shown propolis to reduce the growth of prostate cancer cells and reverse the effects of aluminium toxicity.

Customers can purchase a range of products from SummerGlow Apiaries containing Propolis, Lozenges, throat sprays, tinctures and toothpaste.  Visit to shop for these products.