Getting propolis

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There are 3 main reasons why bees collect propolis:

Firstly, they need warmth, and they keep it by sealing cracks and tap holes.

Secondly, bees cover hive sides, combs and frames, disinfecting them. They cover with propolis all the foreign objects in the hive that they cannot remove, where waxmoth could lay its eggs, and so prevent from pest developing as it causes damage to the hive constructions and destroying beeswax. A thin layer is enough to hinder it. Bee families collecting much propolis donít have any problems with waxmoth.

Thirdly, isolation of everything that gets into a hive and canít be removed. Beekeepers have noticed that when a mouse or some other pest gets into a hive bees kill it immediately and cover with propolis- so to say embalm it, that prevents the infection from appearing and spreading of the infection. They do it so well that the corpse doesnít decompose and can stay in a hive for many years. Once an experiment was carried out at the Institute when an embalmed mouse stayed in the hive for 3 years and that didnít cause any problems.

The ways of gathering propolis have aroused a lot of discussions. The usual one is scraping it off from the frames and other hive parts with the help a hive tool. Only 80% of raw propolis with a lot of wood inclusions are obtained.

Another way is the Loycart method with the use of special frames. The frame is put between the supers, into which with a distance of 4-5 mm. metal or wooden rods are set. They can be round or quadrangular. This frame is taken for a foreign object by bees and they cover it with propolis. After that the frame is put into a deep-freezer. Cooled propolis is easily taken away (even by tapping) and is usually rather clear. The following way has become more and more widespread: gauze with holes 4mm is put on the broodnest, which can be fabric or plastic. As a foreign object itís covered with propolis. Then the gauze is taken out, cooled and crooked- the clearest propolis is separated. Chemical analyses have showed that after removal of propolis from the hive there are still 15-20% of wax, 5% of other admixtures (dust, pollen, etc). The results of laboratory experiments with raw propolis are different.

In order to get clear propolis it is dissolved in 96% spirit and infused during 3 days, stirred now and then. Then it is filtered and spirit is taken away by vacuum distillation. The temperature of vacuum distillation mustnít exceed 40ļ C otherwise propolis loses its properties. Clear propolis is used for pharmaceutical purposes after spirit is removed.

When do bees bring more propolis and when is its property the best?

Bees bring propolis from April to September. It has the highest quality in June- July, as during this period it has all its components that constitute its utility. Propolis brought before or after this period is of lower quality. Donít take more than 100gr from the hive otherwise itíll affect the quality of honey. Bees need it.

Does the production of propolis with metal netting influence its quality.

The influence hasnít been proved yet, but one of the propolis constituents-flavonoid doesnít combine with metal, moreover while it is scraped off the metal netting metal particles can get into propolis.

Must the netting for gathering propolis cover the whole broodnest of only part of it?

The netting can cover only a part of the nest, so that bee could freely make their way into the nest. As for Loycart frame, it is set alone.

J. Chizhmar

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English translation © Irina Yelsukova