Honeybees Use Antimicrobial Resin to Sterilize Hives

June 16, 2016 | Posted In: General

When honeybees start building a nest for a new colony they line the nest with resin that they mix with some wax, a mixture called propolis. Scientists have discovered that by doing this, the bees actually help protect the members of the colony from getting sick, creating a strong “social immunity,” which means each individual bee doesn’t need to use as much energy to boost their individual immune system.

Scientists have known for a while that bee resin has some pretty amazing antimicrobial properties, which makes it effective in killing a number of pathogens. But, what scientists didn’t know was that the bees themselves actually utilize these properties to encourage the good health of colony members. This could partly explain why bees and other social insects collect resin in the first place.

The US National Science Foundation funded an experiment to test this idea, in which scientists made two bee nests, one lined with a similar antimicrobial mixture as resin and one without it. They found that after just one week, the bees in the resin-lined nest didn’t have to use as much energy activating their individual immune systems due to the “social immunity” created by the resin lining their nest.

Did you know that be resin had such amazing properties?