Honey bees can be an important source of nutritional or medicinal products, and/or income.
Honey is the main product from honey bee keeping, providing dietary carbohydrate (sugar) and a variety of medicinal products. On average, beekeepers harvest about 50 pounds of surplus honey per colony per year. During honey harvest, beeswax can also be collected to use for lighting, as a home or commercial wax, or for use in wax-based products. The normal yield is 1-2 pounds of beeswax per 100 pounds of honey harvested.
Other products harvested as protein foods or medicines include pollen and royal jelly – the specialized glandular protein diet of queen bees. Propolis, the bee glue that acts as a barrier to pathogens potentially harmful to bees, is used as a natural anti-microbial medicine. Bee venom, released when bees sting to defend their home, is used in allergy and arthritis treatments.
Beekeepers can earn income by selling “Nucs” – a small starter colony made up of several frames from an existing hive, containing honey, pollen, eggs, larva, and a queen – or renting bees to individuals interested in starting their own bee colonies, or to growers seeking bee pollination for fruit and vegetable production. Cooperatives promoting bee culture may also produce wooden bee hives/frames to sell, assist beekeepers in the sale of their products, or arrange to sell “Nucs” to new beekeepers.