Apiarists Hope to Breed a Better Bee
Rob Rogers, The Contra Costa Times, 2/6/2010
Beekeepers are also doing away with an unhealthy tradition. Until recently, many beekeepers tried to keep their hives clear of propolis - a sticky substance made from tree resin with which bees coat the inside of their hives.
"It's very, very annoying for a beekeeper to go into a hive and have it all stuck together," McNeil-Draper said. "You have to pry everything apart with a hive tool. So over the last 150 years, breeders have selected bees that don't propolize heavily."
Yet new research suggests that propolis acts as a barrier against bacteria, mold and viruses, and may act to support the immune system of the hive.
"Bees don't produce antibodies," Spivak said. "Instead, each individual bee acts like a cell within a body, creating a colony-wide immune system. Bees with propolis don't have to invest as much energy in that immune response."
A few studies have shown that propolis may improve the human immune response as well, and Spivak hopes scientists will eventually explore whether its chemical compounds could be useful in attacking HIV, the virus believed to cause AIDS…