By: Wendy Langhans
Caulk, glue stick and duct tape – tools we rely on to keep our stuff together. As we live in houses, bees live in hives, so they also have a need to keep their stuff together. Bees rely on a tool known as “propolis”. Propolis, sometimes known as “Bee glue”, is a complex mixture of beeswax, plant resins and volatile chemicals. In warm weather, propolis is sticky and pliable. In cold weather, it’s hard and brittle.
Bees use propolis in several ways to keep their stuff together:
1) they use it to line the interior surfaces in the hive.
2) they use it to seal small holes and cracks in the hive.
3) they use it to reduce the size of the entrance hole, making it more defensible against intruders.
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We get our caulk, glue and duct tape from home improvement stores. But where do bees go to obtain propolis? They make it, using raw materials that they gather from nature. It contains a mixture of about 1/4 beeswax but the exact composition depends on the botanical sources. In the temperate regions of North America, propolis is often derived from the buds of poplar and cone-bearing trees.
But propolis also has anti-microbial properties, something that you don’t find in glue stick, caulk and duct tape. (Next week we’ll discuss this in greater detail.) So besides structural remodeling and repairs, bees also use propolis’ anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties to:
4) to prevent disease.
5) to “embalm intruders that they’ve killed in the hive that are too big to remove”. Propolis’ anti-microbial properties allows the carcass to dry out with putrefying.
Most people keep a box of household “fix-it” supplies somewhere in their garage (a.k.a. hive). My husband keeps a bottle of mechanics hand soap there. And many years ago, I found a dry, desiccated lizard behind the dryer. So it seems that, based on the tools we use, we have more in common with bees than a shared fondness for honey.
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Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, April 4, 11, 18 & 25.
Saturday mornings, April 14 & 28.
New trail maps available. If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has just created a new website with trail maps for hiking in our local open spaces: http://hikesantaclarita.com/.
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