Propolis and bee health: The natural history and significance of resin use by honey bees

Michael Simone-Finstrom, Marla Spivak

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

290 Scopus citations


Social immunity, which describes how individual behaviors of group members effectively reduce disease and parasite transmission at the colony level, is an emerging field in social insect biology. An understudied, but significant behavioral disease resistance mechanism in honey bees is their collection and use of plant resins. Honey bees harvest resins with antimicrobial properties from various plant species and bring them back to the colony where they are then mixed with varying amounts of wax and utilized as propolis. Propolis is an apicultural term for the resins when used by bees within a hive. While numerous studies have investigated the chemical components of propolis that could be used to treat human diseases, there is a lack of information on the importance of propolis in regards to bee health. This review serves to provide a compilation of recent research concerning the behavior of bees in relation to resins and propolis, focusing more on the bees themselves and the potential evolutionary benefits of resin collection. Future research goals are also established in order to create a new focus within the literature on the natural history of resin use among the social insects and role that propolis plays in disease resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-311
Number of pages17
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Apis mellifera
  • antimicrobial defense
  • ecological immunity
  • social immunity


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