Purpose, level of production, and ingredients are some of the differences between royal jelly and propolis. While bees use royal jelly as a food source, propolis serves as a construction material. Bees only create substantial amounts of royal jelly when the hive requires a new queen. On the other hand, all hives generally contain propolis resin. The scarcity of royal jelly production naturally generates a higher cost than propolis.
Bees produce both royal jelly and propolis, but the production methods differ. When required to feed larvae, bees excrete royal jelly through oral glands, passing the substance to the baby bees in quantities suitable for each feeding. When the hive requires a new queen, bees encapsulate the larvae in a cell with an abundance of royal jelly. In this environment, larvae constantly consume the milky white fluid, growing larger than other bees and having the capability of egg laying. In the wild, hives need only regenerate a new queen every three or four years.
Propolis production requires bees collect resin and sap from plants and trees. The bees mix the sticky fluid with saliva and wax, building walls, filling in spaces or cementing together various parts of the beehive. If predatory animals or insects invade the hive, bees attack the intruder. After the enemy dies from envenomation, bees encapsulate the carcass with propolis, which protects the colony from disease.
While both substances maintain the health and safety of the bees, the quantities of royal jelly and propolis differ. Beekeepers, also known as apiarists, influence royal jelly production by installing small, plastic, thimble-shaped cups onto a hive frame. Keepers then graft larvae into each cup. The keeper removes the queen from this section of the hive, and the bees quickly go to work filling each cup with royal jelly and sealing the cells. After allowing sufficient time, apiarists retrieve the frame, remove the sealant and larvae, and then scoop out the royal jelly.
When keepers desire propolis production, hives typically have large open areas. Bees produce the protective sealant resin in large quantities, constructing walls between the wooden frames that eliminate open regions. Beekeepers then scrape the sticky substance from the hives, requiring propolis production to begin again.
The chemical and nutritional values of royal jelly and propolis are also different. Studies show that royal jelly contains 10% to 15% protein, simple sugars, and B vitamins, along with amino acids and other trace enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. The chemical constituents of royal jelly show promise in lowering cholesterol, reducing hypertension, and treating osteoporosis. Some research suggests that royal jelly might also be used to reduce premenstrual and menopause symptoms. Propolis, on the other hand, consists of acids and polyphenols. Consumers typically use propolis preparations both externally and internally as an antimicrobial agent.
Individuals purchase royal jelly in its raw state, either in capsules or combined with honey or other herbal products. In an encapsulated form, the recommended royal jelly dose is one or two capsules per day. Taking royal jelly can result in increased bleeding times if it is taken with the anticoagulant warfarin, and topical and systemic allergic reactions after taking royal jelly can also occur.