How to harvest propolis

Written by meg butler
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How to harvest propolis
Propolis is easy to harvest with the help of a propolis trap. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Bees manufacture propolis to protect and insulate their hives. Human beings also use propolis for a number of purposes, and it is a marketable commodity. In order to harvest the bees' propolis, you must have a propolis trap. This simple mesh covering goes on top of the hive in place of its wooden cover. To insulate their hive, the bees will seal the slots in the mesh with propolis. Once a year, in fall when propolis production is at its peak, you can easily harvest it.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Propolis trap
  • Hive tool
  • Plastic bag
  • Freezer
  • Plastic bin
  • Air-tight container

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  1. 1

    Place the flat mesh propolis trap on top of the hive in place of the cover. According to the Virtual Beekeeping Gallery, the best time to do this is in late summer after the bees' last summer harvest. As temperatures fall, they will hurry to seal the gaps and insulate their hive.

  2. 2

    Remove the propolis trap in late fall/early winter. Wait until outdoor temperatures reach or fall below -1.11 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, the propolis changes from a sticky tar-like substance to a hard resin that is much easier to harvest.

  3. 3

    Pull any insect parts or other easily visible debris off of the propolis with your fingers.

  4. 4

    Hold each narrow end of the propolis trap with your hands. Hold the propolis trap over the plastic bin and twist the trap back and forth (like an ice cube tray) to dislodge the bulk of the propolis.

  5. 5

    Stand the propolis trap up in the bin, steady it with one hand and use the other to scrape the remainder of the propolis off of the propolis trap with your hive tool. First scrape the propolis off of the surface then wedge your hive tool in the slits in the mesh to remove the propolis trapped there.

  6. 6

    Sift through the propolis in the bottom of the bin to check for and remove any foreign matter from the propolis.

  7. 7

    Replace the propolis trap on the hive.

  8. 8

    Store the propolis in an airtight glass or plastic container in the refrigerator.

Tips and warnings

  • Propolis attached directly to the wooden frame of a hive is not fit for consumption or sale. Wood and paint flakes dislodged during harvest will contaminate the supply.
  • Instead of waiting for temperatures to reach -1.11 degrees Celsius, you may remove the propolis trap, place it in a plastic bag and freeze it overnight to harden the propolis.
  • The plastic bin must be large enough to easily accommodate the width and breadth of the propolis trap.

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