What's the Buzz with ATTTA # 69

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Last week we investigated some of the medicinal properties of honey, especially in wound care. Recent advancements in research have bettered our general understanding of the benefits of hive products in supporting human health. This week we will explore potential human health-benefits of propolis.

Opportunity for PEI beekeepers: ATTTA will be hosting a limited series of monthly informative discussion sessions with the PEI beekeeping industry beginning October 20, 2021. These sessions are offered through the PEI Beekeepers’ Association. See the infographic at the end of this week’s blog for all the details!

A reminder for the NSBA Fall Technical Session! This session will be held virtually. We hope to “see” you there to join in on some great beekeeping discussions this Saturday from 10AM – 12PM.

Experimental Evidence for Therapeutic Potentials of Propolis

Propolis is a sticky substance produced by honey bees which they often use as a glue within the hive and around hive entrances. Bees collect resinous materials from certain plants they visit (e.g., birch trees, pine trees, & alder trees) and then mix in their own enzymes, and varying amounts of beeswax, to modify the collected materials into a product the bees can use as a construction material. Beyond this use, propolis also contains components which lend antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to the hive where it has been applied. Due to this, an interest is building into the development of natural and novel human health products and treatments.

As highlighted in a recent review (Bhargava et al., 2021), it is important to note that the quality and composition of propolis depends on its geographic location, climatic zone and local flora (Bhargava et al. 2021). In other words, not all propolis is created equally and therapeutic potentials vary, just as with honey! In the propolis world, New Zealand and Brazilian green propolis have been the focus of recent studies. Results from these studies have contributed experimental evidence to support the therapeutic bioactivities of active compounds found in these two kinds of propolis which include:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Antitumor
  • Antimetastatic
  • Hepatoprotective
  • Antimicrobial

Some other types of propolis that have undergone experimental investigations to determine therapeutic potentials of their components and extracts include:

  • Taiwanese propolis – antioxidant and antitumor activities
  • Chinese propolis – antiproliferative effect
  • Canadian propolis – radical scavenging activity
  • Greek propolis – antimicrobial
  • Cuban propolis - antioxidant

A recent publication (Shaldam et al., 2021) demonstrates additional, possible medicinal effect of propolis.  This study investigated the use of propolis as an inhibitor of COVID-19. Interactions of 14 honey and propolis compounds (including certain flavonoids, phenolic acids, and terpenes) with the target enzymes of the causative agent of COVID-19 were analyzed. Of the 14 compounds, four were highlighted to be potential effective inhibitors of COVID-19.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many drugs have been repurposed and analyzed as potential treatments and preventatives of this viral infection. This also facilitated an opportunity to progress knowledge, understanding, and evidence of the healthcare potentials of hive products. Overall, this theoretical study supports further research to assess the potential of using compounds found in honey and propolis as a COVID-19 inhibitor.

Experimental evidence suggests that propolis has potential health benefits.  We will revisit the topic of health benefits of hive products in subsequent blogs to learn more about the broader benefits of these products not only for their own sake, but also beekeeping enterprises.


Bhargava, P., Mahanta, D., Kaul, A., Ishida, Y., Terao, K., Wadhwa, R. & Kaul, S. C. 2021. Experimental Evidence for Therapeutic Potentials of Propolis, Nutrients. Full text available online.

Shaldam, M. A., Yahya, G., Mohamed, N. H., Abdel-Daim, M. M. & Naggar, Y. A. 2021. In silico screening of potent bioactive compounds from honeybee products against COVID-19 target enzymes, Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Full text available online

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can:

What's the Buzz with ATTTA #68

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Over the past month of the blog, we have been discussing various topics related to fall beekeeping: feeders & feeding, varroa mite monitoring & management, and new findings concerning nosema. In addition to these parts of fall beekeeping, many beekeepers are also working in honey houses to extract this year’s honey crop. Honey has both a long and broad standing history of uses. From ancient mummification to a culinary sweetener to medical treatments, there is no doubting the versatility and usefulness of this bee-made liquid gold that beekeepers across the Maritimes are busy harvesting.

What’s the Buzz with ATTTA Podcast Episode 9 is now available for your listening enjoyment! Keep following below for a sneak peak of topics discussed in conversation with Dr. Sarah Wood, a veterinary pathologist whose research concentrates on honey bee health.

Nova Scotia Beekeepers’ Association 2021 Fall Technical Session – October 16, 2021. More information available shortly on the NSBA website.


A Beekeeper’s Fall

The floral blooms have come and gone; the bees have finished their work for the year.  Beekeepers are busy harvesting the liquid treasure that has been accumulating and ripening in supers over the season. Across Atlantic Canada fall has begun to set in; the leaves are changing colors, geese are flying south, and the air is getting crisper. But inside the honey house the air is warm and sweet, and the frames of honey glow gold, ready to fill jars and remind us of summer sunshine through the cold of winter.

This year we saw abundant floral blooms on the landscape throughout the beekeeping season thanks to the early onset of spring and a good amount of rain.  However, this may not always translate in honey harvest numbers since there are so many other factors that also help determine the total honey yield for a particular season. For example, although the rainy days promote plant growth and contribute to a greater abundance of flowers on the landscape, they are stay-at-home, no-forage days for bees. This reminds us that everything is a balance and there is always more to learn. To all the Atlantic honey producers, we wish you a great honey harvest this year!


Recent advances in honey-based hydrogels for wound healing applications: Towards natural therapeutics *

Aside from its delicious sweetness and aesthetic golden glow, honey has been used for many purposes for many years. Honey has a great potential for uses in medical treatment settings, however, the medical value of a particular honey is largely dependent on the substances present in the honey from the surrounding environment. A recent review highlighted some recent advancements in using honey in medical settings, especially for use in hydrogels for wound care. A hydrogel wound covering acts as a flexible skin-like barrier that keeps the wound moist while promoting healing. Adding honey as an ingredient in these hydrogel wound coverings adds even more medically beneficial properties, such as:

  • Antibacterial – reduces production of excess wound fluids (i.e., pus)
  • Anti-inflammatory – reduces elevated inflammation of chronic wounds
  • Hydrating – provides a moist environment & allows for more efficient wound management
  • Hydrophilic – absorbs body fluid to maintain humidity appropriate for wound healing

As-is, honey can be a bit of a difficult substance to use practically and precisely as a tool, especially in a medical setting. These advancements of using honey in wound care, as an ingredient in hydrogel coverings, help in developing a reliable and practical delivery method to incorporate these healing properties of honey into medical treatments.

*Nezhad-Mokhtari, P., Javanbakht, S., Asadi, N., Ghorbani, M., Milani, M., Hanifehpour, Y., Gholizadeh, P., & Akbarzadeh, A. 2021. Recent advances in honey-based hydrogels for wound healing applications: Towards natural therapeutics, Journal of Drug Delivery Science and Technology. Full text available ONLINE.

Example of accessible honey hydrogel wound cover: Derma Sciences 31644 Medihoney Dressing Hydrogel Colloidal Sheet.
(Photo credit: Amazon.ca; More product information HERE)

What’s the Buzz with ATTTA Podcast Episode 9

Our latest episode is an informative interview with veterinarian Dr Sarah Wood.  Dr Wood, a veterinary pathologist, concentrates on research related to honey bee Health.  Working at the University of Saskatchewan, she takes a “One Health” approach to her investigations which covers a range of disease and environmental factors which can impact honey bees.  Listen and learn more about her work which is providing important insights for Canadian beekeepers on pesticide use, European foulbrood, pollination and more. Listen from your choice of podcast platforms HERE.

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can: