By: Wendy Langhans
Last week, we looked at how honeybees use propolis as a tool “to smooth surfaces in the hive, close holes or cracks in the nest, reduce the size of the entrances to keep out intruders...”. This week, let’s look at propolis’  anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, which help protect the bees from infections and diseases.
Honeybees, doctors and grandmothers are all concerned with germs. In a hospital you will find a bottle of hand sanitizer just outside the door of every patient’s room. My grandma kept a well-stocked medicine cabinet. But honey bees don’t carry a bottle of hand sanitizer nor do they stock their medicine cabinets with first aid supplies. They do, however, rely on propolis .
Honey bees, grandmothers and doctors all agree - we need to keep surfaces free of germs. But the methods differ. My grandmother used Lysol and Clorox. So do hospitals . But wild honey bees  “normally line their hives with propolis, a mixture of plant resins and wax that has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.”
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Honey bees, grandmothers and doctors also agree about this - some home remedies work just fine. My grandmother taught me to ease my sore throat by gargling with warm salt water. My doctor  has recommended the same thing. And recent studies suggest that honeybees also use propolis as a home remedy. Researchers  from North Carolina State University found that, “when faced with a fungal threat, bees bring in significantly more propolis – 45 percent more, on average.” These bees seemed to know the difference between harmful and harmless fungi “since colonies did not bring in increased amounts of propolis when infected with harmless fungal species.”
And there’s a one more area where honey bees, grandmothers and doctors agree - dead bodies need to be disposed. Doctors often preserve  human tissue for medical purposes. My grandmother preserved beef and chicken by either pickling it, canning it, or drying it. And honey bees use propolis “to embalm intruders...that are too big to remove.”
For a moment, just imagine an opening scene that could have been plucked from an episode of NCIS Los Angeles - a dead body found inside a beehive. What will the undertaker bees  do? It the body is small, they will remove it from the hive and discard it about 150-300 feet from the hive. But what if the body is too big to carry? The honey bees will resort to plan B (pun intended), leaving the body inside the hive and embalming  it in propolis. The anti-microbial properties of propolis prevent decomposition while protecting the bees from harmful pathogens. Sounds gross, doesn’t it?
But wait; it gets even worse. We do one thing that the honey bees don’t do. My family ate what my grandma preserved.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org  for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, May 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30.
Saturday mornings, May 12 & 26.
May 5, 8-10 AM at East/Rice Canyon. Botanical Picky Eaters. It’s not broccoli that they are refusing to eat, but wildflowers sure can be stubborn with their food! Explore how the physical setting affects what grows there. Meet outside the front gate. For directions and a trail map, click here .
May 12, 10 AM - 3 PM. Open House and Family Festival at Placerita Canyon. The usually serene Placerita Canyon State Park will bustle with activity when the county of Los Angeles and the Placerita Canyon Nature Center Associates host a big open house and family festival. Placerita Canyon Nature Center, 19152 Placerita Canyon Road, www.placerita.org .
May 19, 8-9 AM at Towsley Canyon. Busy Birds of May. May is a busy month for birds; time for the youngsters to test their wings and leave the nest. Beginning birders are welcom. Binoculars optional. Meet at Towsley Canyon’s front parking lot. For directions and a trail map, click here .
New trail maps available. If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has just created a new website with trail maps for our local open spaces: http://hikesantaclarita.com /.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The SCV Outdoor Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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