Royal Jelly: The Queen Ingredient

Thursday 11 November 2021

Last week we discussed some potential beneficial bioactivities of pollen for human health and considered the differences in these qualities observed in raw collected pollen compared to fermented pollen. Interestingly, the fermented pollen lent greater potential beneficial bioactivities for human health compared to the raw-form pollen. This week, we are tying up our ‘Hive Products for Human Health’ series with an investigation of the potentially beneficial bioactivities of royal jelly for human health. Keep reading to learn more about these potential bioactivities and potential applications of royal jelly for the purpose of protecting and promoting human health.

We are excited to announce that our second beekeeping demonstration of our ‘Canadian Beekeeping Minutes’ YouTube series is now available. Keep reading to find out what you can learn from our latest ATTTA demonstration and where to find this series!

Royal Jelly: The Queen Ingredient

Royal jelly is a protein-packed substance secreted by the hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands within the head of a worker bee. Royal jelly is a sort of “mother’s milk” equivalent for bees to provide to their young as a first source of nutrients to fuel development. The purpose of this substance within the hive is to act as a food source for developing larvae, however, the proportion of royal jelly to other food components (i.e., beebread) depends on the caste of larva that is receiving the food. As the name indicates, royal jelly is fed to developing queens, and exclusively makes up the entire diet of queen larvae. Royal jelly is also fed to developing worker and drone larvae, but these castes also receive beebread as a part of their developmental diet fed by the nurse bees of the colony. This factor in diet is the only difference between the new larva in a queen cup and the new larva in a standard comb cell set on the path of becoming a worker bee, prior to being fed their respective diets. As has been noted for all previously discussed hive products for human health, these potentials are influenced by the floral sources accessed by the bees which are producing the royal jelly being analyzed.

Harvesting royal jelly from queen cell on the bottom bar of a frame (note: frame is sitting upside down).

A review on health benefits and biological action of honey, propolis and royal jelly*

In the world of human “superfoods” and “dietary supplements”, royal jelly has been consumed since ancient times with the strong belief that it would make you live a longer and healthier life. However, since harvestable royal jelly is produced by bees in such small quantities and in such specific colony conditions, it was reserved for individuals of only the highest status during ancient times. Nowadays, royal jelly is consumed much more widely as a dietary supplement thanks to the bioactivities that – depending on the floral sources that the foraging bees have gathered the colony’s food sources from – may be present:
  • Antibacterial
  • Antitumor
  • Antiallergy
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Immunomodulatory
Royal jelly is composed of water, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and various salt minerals and vitamins; where the main protein, royalactin, is present both as the main component, and as the key to its potentials for human health applications, for example:
  • Rebalancing blood hormone levels (decreases follicle-stimulating hormone) in menopausal women, and promoting quality of life in postmenopausal women
  • Protection against photoaging from UV, and enhancing wound-healing activity in cases where injured skin tends to peel off (e.g., sunburns, heat burns, various irritants etc.) by promoting collagen production
Although these potential bioactivities of royal jelly have been investigated and reported, there is some skepticism surrounding the practical value of the health benefits of royal jelly. Much of this skepticism surrounds the potency of these bioactive components in the small amounts of royal jelly that is consumed/applied in the name of promoting human health. However, with this being understood, royal jelly is still viewed and used by many natural health enthusiasts as a health stimulant or ‘boost’ rather than a main treatment product.

* Vazhacharickal, P, J. 2021. A review on honey health benefits and biological action of honey, propolis and royal jelly, Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies. Full text available ONLINE.

‘Canadian Beekeeping Minutes’ Demo 2: Opening a Hive & Handling Frames

Knowing how to properly open a hive and then maneuver, remove, and handle frames from a honey bee hive requires some proper technique and awareness. Watch this ATTTA demonstration to learn what tools and tricks you can use to minimize the reaction from the colony and maximize your beekeeping experience the next time you visit your hive(s)! Beginning and ending hive inspections a certain way can help to create good beekeeping habits and consistency in your bee yards.

Watch this ATTTA demonstration to learn how to open a honey bee hive and handle the frames, HERE.

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

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