How to collect raw propolis from the hive


Propolis or “bee glue” is a resinous mixture that honey bees collect from tree buds and plant resins. Bees collect propolis to use it in the hive as a building material and also to protect the colony against diseases. The value of propolis as an antimicrobial and anti-viral agent has been proven in many laboratory tests over many years. Propolis therefore offers the opportunity for beekeeper to generate extra income from the extraction and processing of propolis and to use propolis for improved health and wellbeing. This technology explains how to collect propolis from the hive.


Propolis is a mixture of various amounts of beeswax and resins collected by the honeybee (Apis mellifera and stingless bees) from plants, particularly from flowers and leaf buds, but also from conifers and carried by the bees to the hive like pollen pellets on their hind legs (see Pictures 1).     Propolis is very sticky when the exterior temperature is high (see Picture 8).

Picture 1: Bee collecting propolis               

Propolis is used by worker bees to line the inside of nest cavities and all brood combs, repair combs, seal small cracks in the hive, reduce the size of hive entrances (see Pictures 2 and 3), seal off inside the hive any dead animals or insects which are too large to be carried out and, perhaps most important of all, to mix small quantities of propolis with wax to seal brood cells. These uses are significant because they take advantage of the antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects of propolis in protecting the colony against diseases.      

Picture 2: Bees using propolis to reduce the hive entrance (beginning). 


Picture 3: Bees using propolis to reduce the hive entrance (end).

The average production of propolis per colony per year depends on the type of bees, the climate, the available resources and the collecting mechanism.   It may go from 5 to 400g or even more.

How to collect propolis from the hive

Propolis can be collected by scraping it from the hive, or by using a special device.

1. Collecting propolis by scraping it from the hive

The hive tool or a knife can be used to scrape the propolis from the hive (see Pictures 4 and 5).  The knife should not be too sharp to avoid cutting away wood when scraping the propolis from the hive.  Make sure the hive tool or knife is clean.  Contamination of propolis with wax, pieces of wood, paint and other debris should be avoided.  In order to avoid contamination with too much wax, scrapings from frames or bottom boards and lids should be kept separate from each other. Chunks and pieces should be combined into small balls to minimize the contact surface and avoid as much as possible oxidation:  all the propolis inside the ball will be protected from oxidation. Large pieces often have to be ground or broken into smaller chunks first before extraction.

Picture 4:  Propolis on frames

Picture 5: Raw propolis collected by scraping it from inside the hive

Depending on the type of hive used, it will be possible to collect more or less propolis.

To stimulate the bees to produce more propolis, small openings can be created in the hive. The bees reduce or completely close the new openings with propolis.  This propolis can then be collected by the beekeeper.  Care should be taken not to make the openings too big to avoid insects or other small animals to enter the hive through the openings.   Also, if the opening is too big, bees will mix more wax with propolis and the quality of the propolis will be lower.

2. Collecting propolis by using a special device (traps):

Traps are basically screens or special plates with small holes which simulate cracks in the hive walls (see Pictures 6, 7 and 8). Bees try to seal the holes and thus fill the trap with propolis.

The most economic trap design is an inner cover (of the moveable frame hive) with a large hole, covered with regular mosquito net, secured in place with nails (see Figures 11 and 12). However, to avoid contamination with wax, the screen should not touch the top of the frames. It’s also possible to use this kind of trap in a topbar hives.

Light, and in particular air circulation are important to stimulate the bees to propolise undesired openings in the hive. Accordingly, traps placed on top of frames should be covered but the hive cover needs to be left opened slightly to increase air circulation and to allow some light to enter the hive (see Picture 10).  Approximately 1 cm should be left  between the propolis trap and the top of the frames to allow the bees to move between the sheet and the frames.

Propolis is removed from traps by cooling the plastic sheets or fly-screens for a few hours in a refrigerator or freezer. Once cooled, the propolis becomes brittle and can be removed from the screen by simply flexing and brushing it, or by pulling it over a table edge. The trap is then ready for re-use.

Picture 6:  Professional propolis trap made of plastic. This trap is placed on the top of the hive, above the frames and under the hive lid.

Picture 7: Propolis trap full of propolis.

Picture 8: Propolis is a sticky material when the temperature is high like during the summer. With lower temperatures, for example during the winter, the propolis will solidify and become hard.

Picture 9: The propolis trap is a flexible, 3 mm thick plastic sheet with openings of 2 mm on one side and 4 mm on the other side.

Picture 10: The plastic propolis screen is placed on the top of the super. Placing a small piece of wood between the plastic propolis screen and the exterior cover increases ventilation and lets light in. This stimulates the bees to seal the openings of the plastic screen with propolis. 

Figure 11: Inner cover with and without nylon frame



Figure 12: A simple design of a propolis trap made from nylon, fly or mosquito screen. The screen is removable and can be quickly replaced with a new one during harvest. 



Picture credits: Picture 1: courtesy of Stefan Stangaçiu (Romania); Pictures 2, 3, 6, 7, 8: courtesy of Antonio Couto; Pictures 4 and 5: courtesy of Arno Bruder (Germany); Pictures 9, 10, 11 and 12: FAO.

This technology is extracted from the publication “Value added products of the beehive” ( and compiled and completed by Antonio Couto.


Further reading

FAO. 1996. Value added products of the beehive. FAO agricultural series bulletin 124, Rome, Italy. Available at:



Created date

Fri, 08/04/2016 - 15:21


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
FAO's mandate
Achieving food security for all is at the heart of FAO's efforts - to make sure people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.
FAO's mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy.

Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación (FAO)
El mandato de la FAO
Alcanzar la seguridad alimentaria para todos, y asegurar que las personas tengan acceso regular a alimentos de buena calidad que les permitan llevar una vida activa y saludable, es la esencia de las actividades de la FAO.El mandato de la FAO consiste en mejorar la nutrición, aumentar la productividad agrícola, elevar el nivel de vida de la población rural y contribuir al crecimiento de la economía mundial.

Organization des Nations Unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture
Le mandat de la FAO
Atteindre la sécurité alimentaire pour tous est au coeur des efforts de la FAO - veiller à ce que les êtres humains aient un accès régulier à une nourriture de bonne qualité qui leur permette de mener une vie saine et active.
Le mandat de la FAO consiste à améliorer les niveaux de nutrition, la productivité agricole et la qualité de vie des populations rurales et contribuer à l’essor de l’économie mondiale.