5 Useful Bee Products (That Aren't Honey)


10 minute read

Essential Takeaways

Honey is just one of the many bee products humans have used throughout history and around the world for health and wellness.

From beeswax to pollen, venom, propolis, and royal jelly, we explore what these products are and the key things you need to know about buying them.

Make sure you choose a reputable brand with transparent values and processes, and the highest standards of animal welfare.

Over a million metric tonnes of honey is produced and sold around the world every year.

Famed for its health benefits and healing properties, honey is used in many different ways and has been for milennia.

But it’s far from the only useful bee product.

From wax to venom, pollen to propolis, we’re uncovering some of the lesser known bee products on the market and what you might use them for.

In this guide to useful bee products, we’ll cover:

  • 1) Beeswax

  • 2) Bee pollen

  • 3) Bee venom

  • 4) Propolis

  • 5) Royal jelly

  • Get the best manuka honey from New Zealand Honey Co.

Let’s start with perhaps the most common non-honey bee product.

  1. Beeswax

Bees produce wax to coat and seal honey in the honeycomb.

This helps to keep the honey fresh for when the bees need it over the winter months when nectar is in short supply.

Beeswax typically starts out white and turns yellow or brown over time.

“Beeswax is a complex product secreted in liquid form by special wax glands in the abdomen of younger worker bees (aged between 12 and 18 days, that is to say at the end of the period in which the bees act as nurses).

In contact with the air, it solidifies in scales (that the bees model with jaws to build the honeycombs, adding pollen and propolis).”

Where does beeswax come from?

Beeswax is made from honey by female worker bees.

It’s produced in their abdomen and excreted to build the honeycomb where they store honey and pollen.

It’s the pollen oils that turn the wax into the yellowy-brown colour we typically see.

Bees huddle together in the hive to raise their temperature, convert honey sugars into oozing wax, and use this wax to seal the honey in the comb and keep it fresh.

Clever, right?

What is beeswax used for?

Like honey, humans have used beeswax for milennia in a number of ways.

Here are just a few examples:

  • For candles which were vital before the discovery of electricity.

  • For medicine by the Greeks and Iranians, in particular.

  • For the mummification and embalment of the dead in Ancient Egypt, Persia, and Rome.

  • For beauty and anti-ageing.

  • For sealing envelopes and important documents.

Beeswax was also used as a form of tax and trade in Medieval Europe.

Nowadays we use beeswax for things like varnishes and polishes, industrial products and foods, and commonly as reusable food wraps.

As an alternative to disposable plastic food wrap like cellophane, lunches and snacks can instead be wrapped in these honey-treated cotton sheets to reduce waste.

Things to know when sourcing beeswax

It’s important when buying any natural product that you get the real deal both for your own purposes and to support the responsible suppliers.

These are the things to look for when buying beeswax:

  • Pure beeswax is easy to break. If your beeswax withstands pressure then it might not be pure.

  • If you’re in the United States, the beeswax you buy should be GRAS listed (Generally Recognised As Safe) and approved for end use under regulation 21CFR184.

  • Beeswax should have it’s characteristic yellow colour and sweet aroma (white beeswax will likely have been bleached).


  1. Bee Pollen

Bee pollen is a raw material.

It’s a natural mix of bee secretions, enzymes, flower pollen, wax, and honey.

Where does bee pollen come from?

In the first instance, bees collect pollen from flowers.

Then they mix it with secretion from their salivary glands and carry it to their hive.

Next, it gets packed into honeycomb cells and covered with a thin layer of wax.

The subsequent product is called ‘bee bread’.

The pollen itself can be removed from the hive before it becomes bee bread.

What is bee pollen used for?

There are some acclaimed health benefits of consuming bee pollen as it is thought to be rich in biologically-active substances.

For this reason, people sometimes put it in smoothies, or take direct bee pollen supplements.

Using bee products for health is commonly called ‘apitherapy’. Bee pollen is thought to contain antioxidants, and antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

“Bee pollen is used in the api therapeutic treatment as it demonstrates a series of actions such as antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulating, and local analgesic and also facilitates the granulation process of the burn wound healing.”

However, it can be dangerous to people with allergies, and due to limited trials, many of the effects on humans remain unknown.

If you’re unsure about whether or not this is suitable for you, talk to your doctor.

Things to know when sourcing bee pollen

When looking for genuine bee pollen, it’s best to research suppliers and go with those that are the most transparent about their processing.

It typically comes in granules or powder.

Unfortunately, there’s no official certification yet for genuine bee pollen.

  1. Bee Venom

Bee venom is a colourless, acidic liquid that bees use in defence by stinging a target when they feel threatened.

“Bee venom is called “apitoxin.” Apitoxin is a complex mixture of protein substances that affect cellular function. These peptides and enzymes break apart fat layers in cells and destroy skin mast cells.

When skin mast cells die they release histamine, which dilates the blood vessels. People who are allergic to bee stings release too much histamine when their mast cells die. Their blood vessels dilate too significantly, triggering potentially deadly anaphylactic shock.”

Where does bee venom come from?

Bee venom is produced by bees to defend themselves.

It’s stored in a sac. When the bee stings you with its stylet (the stinger), this venom flows from the sac to the tip of the stylet and into the skin.

What is bee venom used for?

Although bee venom is usually associated with that painful bee sting, it’s actually used in apitherapy, with apparent medicinal qualities.

While bee venom is not very widely studied, it is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, may reduce arthritis-related symptoms, and may benefit skin and immune health.

It has been used by notable celebrities, and bee venom acupuncture is popular in some circles.

But it doesn’t come without risks - in 2018, a Spanish woman died from multiple organ failure after having a bad reaction.

Things to know when sourcing bee venom

Here are three things to consider when thinking about sourcing or using bee venom:

  • Bee venom therapy is not widely researched. The use and effects in humans is still largely unknown.

  • Skincare products containing bee venom are likely to be less potent than bee venom applied directly to the body during therapy.

  • You should only source bee venom from a trusted source after researching where they get their products from and what the effects are.

  1. Propolis

Propolis is a waxy substance or resin, sometimes called “bee glue”.

It contains approximately 50% tree and vegetable resins, 30% beeswax, 10% essential and aromatic oils, and 5% pollen.

Propolis also contains polyphenols, such as flavonoids - a type of antioxidant.


Where does propolis come from?

Bees combine the sap collected from needle-leaved trees or evergreens, with their own discharges and beeswax.

This creates a sticky product called propolis which they use to coat their hives for protection.

What is propolis used for?

Like most bee products, it claims some medicinal benefits.

Propolis is said to help with minor wounds, oral hygiene, inflammation and cold sores.

Researchers have discovered more than 300 compounds in propolis, most of these being antioxidants also typically found in red wine, green tea, fruits and vegetables.

“However, although laboratory and animal studies into the properties of propolis and its components are promising, few high quality studies have proven its effectiveness as a treatment for specific conditions in humans.”

Propolis has been used for the following purposes:


  • Oral hygiene: propolis toothpaste is readily available in supplements. It can also be found in nasal sprays and mouthwash.

  • Bootmaking: some shoemakers use it on the seams of handmade boots.

  • Polishing: musical instruments, particularly violins, in Italy.

  • Cutting timber: sometimes used by forestry workers cutting poplar trees.

  • Making art: with beeswax moulds.

Things to know when sourcing propolis

Make sure you’re making an informed decision when buying propolis.


  • Some people are allergic to propolis. Allergies can suddenly develop after a long period of time of safe exposure to propolis.

  • Propolis can be found in capsule form in health stores and pharmacies.

  • Some other propolis-related substances are propolis cera (yellow wax produced from honeycomb), beeswax acid, and synthetic beeswax.

Royal Jelly

This milky-white substance is secreted by worker bees, and is crucial to the development of the queen bee.

However, there has been confusion and discussion about how bee colonies use royal jelly, and how it serves the queen.

Queen bees are actually genetically identical to worker bees.

Incredibly, it’s through nutrition and diet that they become the queen.

We used to believe that queen bees became royal thanks to a diet of royal jelly, but it seems this may not be the full story.

“Instead of chemical castration by denying workers royal jelly, this elaborate feeding process provides chemical protection for the queen's ovaries.

She is sheltered from the potential toxic or metabolic effects of plant chemicals. As we continue to improve our techniques, hopefully we will come closer to a firm answer about just what honey bees eat in their hives, and why.”

Where does royal jelly come from?

Royal jelly is a bit like snot.

It’s produced in the heads of worker bees and used to feed larvae and raise queen bees.

It’s quite difficult for a beekeeper to source.

They must cleverly trick the worker bees into thinking that queen bee eggs have arrived (which are honeybee eggs instead) and need feeding.

This encourages the worker bees to deposit royal jelly, which is then harvested by the beekeepers.

What is royal jelly used for?

Royal jelly has been used throughout history for the following purposes:

  • Source of youthful energy: consumed by the maharajas of India.

  • Longevity: used in Chinese medicine and nick-named ‘food of the emperors’, as only the royalty could consume such a substance.

  • Recover from illness or sickness: in the 20th Century, Pope Pius XII was given royal jelly by his physician; Princess Diana used it to help with morning sickness; and Queen Elizabeth uses it to combat fatigue.

  • Nutritional supplements: today, royal jelly holds similar social status and financial value, as it’s thought to help with immunity, stamina, cholesterol, fertility, and skin care.

Things to know when sourcing royal jelly

You can typically buy royal jelly fresh, mixed with honey, or in capsules.

It should be kept in the fridge or freezer for long-term storage.

Like with honey, make sure you buy from a reputable brand to ensure responsible harvesting and high standards of animal welfare.

And there you have it: five useful bee products that aren’t honey.

But if honey is still your favourite, you’re in the right place.

Bee Products FAQs

Quick answers to your buzzing questions.

What products are good from bees?

The most common bee products include honey, beeswax, royal jelly and propolis. You can also find bee venom and bee pollen on the market too. Most of these products are associated with health and wellness benefits, with beeswax used in more practical items like candles and wraps.

What are the most valuable bee products?

Manuka honey is one of the rarest and most expensive bee products. Thanks to decades of research into its superior health and wellness properties, it has its own strict grading system to verify freshness and authenticity. Learn more about manuka honey.

What’s the healthiest bee product?

A number of bee products are associated with health and wellness properties from honey to propolis, royal jelly, and even venom. Manuka honey is one of the most heavily researched, famed for its unique antibacterial activity and medical uses. For this reason, it’s considered one of the healthiest bee products.

Are bee products good for skin?

Both honey and bee venom are widely used in skincare for antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects that can help conditions like acne. Manuka honey is particularly high in these beneficial compounds and it’s easy to make your own skin creams and balms at home.

Buy the Best Quality Manuka Honey from New Zealand Honey Co.

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We only work with the most responsible beekeepers throughout New Zealand so that you know the bees are happy and healthy, and your honey is the real deal.

We only deal with real.

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1 Comment

This has been very interesting! I am so glad to see a lot more is being found from our Honeybees!

chrissy behee

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