Royal jelly, also known as bee milk, is secreted by 5-15 days old worker honey-bees. It is produced by the hypopharyngeal gland (sometimes called the brood food gland) of young worker (nurse) bees, to feed young larvae and the adult queen bee.
Royal jelly is always fed directly to the queen or the larvae as it is secreted; it is not stored. This is why it has not been a traditional beekeeping product. The only situation in which harvesting becomes feasible is during queen rearing, when the larvae destined to become queen bees are supplied with an over-abundance of royal jelly. The queen larvae cannot consume the food as fast as it is provided and royal jelly accumulates in the queen cells. The exact definition of commercially available royal jelly is therefore related to the method of production: it is the food intended for 4-5 days old queen bee larvae.
Naturally produced royal jelly is too little for commercial purposes. However, royal jelly production can be done using artificial queen rearing with either plastic or beeswax queen cups in stinging-bees using movable-comb hives (frame or top bar hives). This is done during honey flow period when bees are actively collecting nectar (honey) and pollen.
How to produce royal jelly successfully (the "Doolittle" method)
Pick two frames/bars with pollen and honey from strong colonies and put them in the nuclei box, one on each side, followed by a sealed worker brood comb on both side, and a comb with eggs and very young larvae in the middle.
Shake young nurse bees in the nuclei box hive and deprive them of the queen for 24 hours.
Open the queen-less nuclei box having the frame/ bar already mounted with the queen cups. Then remove the middle frame/ bar with eggs and young larvae. Return them to the strong colonies and replace the space in the nuclei box with a frame/ bar mounted with queen cups.
Check the frame /bar with queen cups in the centre of the nuclei box after 24 hours, to see if the queen cups have signs of being accepted by the workers (e.g. molding and trimming of the cups).
Open the queen rearing nuclei hive and remove the frame/ top bar with the accepted queen cups and also pick a comb with 8-24 hours old larvae from the strong colonies to a warm house free from wind.
Using the grafting pin, prime the queen cups with a drop of royal jelly scooped from very young worker larval cells, then graft the queen cups with 8-24 hours old worker larvae before the frame/ top bar is returned to the nuclei hive of the original position. Next give the nuclei hive younger nurse bees and wait for another 24 hours.
Inspect the queen rearing nuclei box hive to see if the grafts are being attended by nurse bees and have been accepted. If not, re graft and wait for 24 hours (remove the former graft before putting a new one in).
After 3 days, the accepted queen cells are filled with royal jelly (about 148-280 mg per cell or 450g per 1000 queen cells).
Cut the queen cells with a sharp thin bladed knife to the level of the royal jelly, on the fourth day of the graft.
Remove the queen brood with forceps and suck off the royal jelly with a syringe.
How to strain and store royal jelly
Store the harvested royal jelly in dark coloured bottles with wide opening and cover them with air tight lids. Note: Sunlight destroys some nutritive elements and vitamins in royal jelly.
Strain the collected royal jelly through a 40-mesh per cm strainer to remove any unwanted materials such as pollen particles, wax or larval moults.
Put the strained royal jelly in the dark bottles with wide opening and store it in a refrigerator at 1.7°C for immediate consumption or sale, and in a deep freezer for a longer storage period.
The process is repeated using the same queen cups.
Source: Kihwele et al. (2001)
- Author: 11
- Publication Date: 2014-06-20 12:27:15
- Article Category: Bee Keeping
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