Hidden benefits of honeybee propolis in hives

Renata S. Borba, Michael B. Wilson, Marla Spivak

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

9 Scopus citations


Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.), like many social insects, have collective behavioral defenses called "social immunity" to help defend and protect the colony against pathogens and parasites. One example of social immunity is the collection of plant resins by honey bees and the placement of the resins on the interior walls of the nest cavity, where it is called a propolis envelope. Propolis is known to have many antimicrobial proprieties against bacteria, fungi, and viruses and has been harvested from bee hives for use in human medicine since antiquity. However, the benefit of propolis to honey bees has not been studied until recently. This chapter focuses on how bees collect and use the antimicrobial properties of plant resins within the hive as a form of social immunity and defense against infectious bacterial and fungal pathogens. The studies presented here demonstrate the significance of the propolis envelope as a crucial component of the nest architecture in honey bee colonies. The collection and deposition of resins into the nest architecture impact individual immunity, colony health, and support honey bees' antimicrobial defenses. These studies emphasize the importance of resin to bees and show that plants are not only a source of food, but can also be "pharmacies."

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBeekeeping - From Science to Practice
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9783319606378
ISBN (Print)9783319606354
StatePublished - Sep 19 2017


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