Using what Honeybees Make

Honeybees work tirelessly, collecting nectar and pollen from flowers to create honey to feed their colonies. But did you know that these industrious creatures make an assortment of products besides honey—and that these are useful to humans, too? Honey, wax, propolis, royal jelly, pollen, and even bee venom have provided benefits to humans for generations. Here we share a few ways to use the bounty found in a beehive.

If you’re inspired by this list and want to learn to cultivate and harvest honeybee products, check out Grow Local’s upcoming Honey Harvesting beekeeping class with Tara Chapman of Two Hives Honey. Also look out for honey vendors at SFC’s Farmers’ Markets.


Bees create honey by mixing nectar from flowers with an enzyme, then concentrating it by fanning away water content with their wings. Humans use honey in a variety of ways, including but not limited to the following. Raw (unpasteurized), pure honey provides the most benefits.

  • Honey is a delicious sweetener. Varieties made from different types of flowers have distinct flavors.
  • Honey is soothing, and helps relieve coughing and throat irritation.
  • The enzyme bees add endows honey with anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. This means that honey has an incredibly long shelf life, so bees can use it as a food reserve for times when nectar is not available. For humans, these anti-microbial properties help us fight infection.
  • The Ayurvedic tradition, honey is considered to enhance the medicinal qualities of herbal preparations.


Bees produce wax in their bodies and use it as a structural element in their hives. In their wax comb, bees raise young and store pollen and honey. Humans can combine beeswax with other ingredients to make balms and salves for a variety of purposes, such as moisturizing skin and healing burns. We can also use it make sweet-smelling candles.


Propolis is a lesser-known bee product. Bees make it by mixing honey with resin they collect from trees, and use it to seal small gaps in their hive. Humans have used propolis for its antimicrobial properties and to help heal burns. The scientific community is researching other possible applications, as well.

Royal Jelly

Royal jelly is a special food that bees make for the queen bee and for larvae that they are raising to become new queens. It contains vitamins B5 and B6, as well as antioxidants. Humans have used it medicinally to treat a wide variety of afflictions, including asthma, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and menopausal symptoms.


Bees have venom in their stingers that causes pain and swelling. Getting stung is very unpleasant (that’s the point), but researchers are finding that bee venom may have some therapeutic applications—with caveat that it can also cause anaphylactic shock in those who are allergic. Bee venom may be useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, chronic hives, and skin lesions.