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Now’s The Perfect Time to Harvest Propolis… And Here’s How!

beekeeper breaking propolis attachments between bars of comb

You can use a Standard Hive Tool to break propolis attachments between bars.

beekeeper breaking propolis attachments between bars of comb

You can use a Standard Hive Tool to break propolis attachments between bars.

We all know honey is amazing, but don’t sleep on the incredible benefits of propolis. This sticky, resinous substance is a powerhouse in the hive, which the bees use like caulk to seal and repair the hive in preparation for winter. Additionally, propolis has antimicrobial properties that the bees use to sterilize their hive, which ultimately helps manage disease loads in the colony. This second property is of value to you; you can harvest, freeze, and grind the propolis to use for medicinal tinctures, salves, and more. 

Before you can use this incredible substance in all of your DIY preparations, you have to know how to harvest it from your hive. 

How To Know There’s Propolis To Harvest

When you inspect your hive, you can identify propolis as the sticky, amber-like substance that the bees place in-between bars and along any junctures in the hive. However, keep in mind that as the weather cools, propolis cools with it and will become hard and brittle. You may need to tweak your harvesting protocols or choose a warmer fall day to gather the goods. 

Plan to harvest when the bees are using propolis in abundance. There are specialist foraging bees that go straight for the trees and plants to gather resin when the colony needs propolis. The following variables trigger this specialized behavior:

 

  • Rough, uneven surfaces in the hive
  • Excess space between bars that are smaller than bee space (5/16th of an inch)
  • The onset of disease or illness in the colony
  • Spaces that let in light or drafts 

 

If you notice these signs upon inspection, keep your eyes open for propolis. Then, you can harvest the excess. Remember, we are beekeepers for the bees and you don’t want to undo all of their hard work. In fact, you can acquire a propolis trap to harvest this valuable resource, but it’s not completely necessary.

 

How to Harvest Propolis

When you notice propolis in your hive, and you want to collect it, get your Beepods Hive Tool ready to go; it’s great for scraping. You can also have your Standard Hive Tool on hand since it’s excellent for prying bars apart. Or, you can use your bare hands, if that’s your style. Once you’re suited up and ready to go, follow these steps:

 

  1. Identify a bar with ample propolis.
  2. Pry the bars apart, gently, and lift the bar up from the cradle for examination.
  3. If the propolis is soft, you can pull pieces off from the bar or the frame of the hive using your fingers.
  4. If the propolis is hardened, you can use the Beepods Hive Tool to scrape pieces off into a receptacle (a glass Mason jar or metal tin work great).

 

Now that you have your propolis, you might be wondering how you separate out any debris, wax, or dead bees (heaven forbid).

multiple bars of comb inside a beehive with bees and a sticky amber substance on top

Honey bees use propolis all over the hive, and it can appear like a sticky, brown/amber substance.

Separating the Propolis From the Debris

We have a great trick for separating the propolis from the hive debris. Listen up. Here are your steps:

 

  1. Grab a bucket or pail and fill it with water.
  2. Empty the container of propolis into the bucket of water. 
  3. The wax, debris, and other hive detritus will float while the propolis will sink.
  4. Skim off the undesirables, pour the water off, and gather your propolis. 

 

Processing Your Propolis

Once you have your propolis ready to process, you’re only a few steps away from being able to craft and create your own healing products. Here’s what to do:

 

  1. Place your propolis in a sealed container in your freezer.
  2. Return 24 hours later and remove the container from the freezer.
  3. Take out your coffee grinder or spice grinder, making sure you clean them out thoroughly before use. 
  4. Grind your propolis into a powder.
  5. Use in any tincture, salve, or other home care product recipe. 

 

Since many home care products require the unique properties of beeswax, make sure to save your excess wax for your recipes too. Honey isn’t just for eating either.  

 

Are you a DIY King or Queen?

Take advantage of our hive product walkthroughs, located in our Video Library in Beepods Lab

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Final Thoughts

One of the best ways to show your respect and appreciation for bees is to not squander the hive products they spend so much time and energy creating. Honey is delicious for all of your cooking and baking needs, but propolis is an excellent ingredient to have on hand for skin healing, soothing, and protection. If you follow these simple processes, you’re sure to appreciate your bees even more. 

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Caitlin Knudsen

Caitlin Knudsen is a content writer for Beepods with a passion for lifelong learning and psychology. She is an avid gardener, grower of houseplants, and does recipe development and food photography in her spare time.
Caitlin Knudsen
Caitlin Knudsen is a content writer for Beepods with a passion for lifelong learning and psychology. She is an avid gardener, grower of houseplants, and does recipe development and food photography in her spare time.

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