It’s almost December! Looking back on 2019 we can say it’s been a challenge and hopefully a year not to be repeated. But we do want to celebrate the season and to that end we encourage everyone to join us for Christmas at the Hive Dec 7th & 14th. This is the 16th year for this fun family event and many have made it an annual tradition. As a fundraiser for our Foothills Country Hospice there couldn’t be a better way to support a wonderful charity and enjoy winter at the same time.
Last month we explored the many benefits of Royal Jelly (RJ). How it is harvested is interesting and explains why it is so costly. Attendant and nurse bees produce and feed the queen from larva and throughout her lifespan. For large scale RJ production multiple larvae are collected (grafted) by hand into individual cups which resemble natural queen cells. Nurse bees are introduced to feed the larvae RJ and after 3 days it is extracted by hand using miniature spatulas. The labour costs are obviously huge but there are many research initiatives underway to minimize them.
Efficiency improvements are multiple and start with the honey bee stock that is used. A select strain of Italian honey bees has been improved for high volume RJ production. Grafting and collection tools have been re-designed and a new ‘ovipositor’ frame even hopes to eliminate the need for manual grafting. Finally new RJ collecting machines have increased collection speed.
Although it was French beekeepers in the 1950’s who documented RJ collection, it has been Chinese beekeepers and researchers who have made the most advancements in this field. RJ is collected in small amounts in a few countries (primarily for personal use) but none can match the volume that China has for commercial production which was reported at Apimondia 2019 as high as 100 kg per colony per year.