The production of royal jelly

Royal jelly or gelee royale is the food for queen larvae. Its amazing properties can be seen, when a larva that would normally evolve into a worker bee (unfertile female), evolves into a sexually mature female – queen bee, because of the royal jelly. It is excreted by nurse bees 6 to 14 days old. Honey and pollen are the necessary raw material.  The jelly is produced in special glands of the nurse bees. The jelly looks sticky and adhesive, is usually white, and at times it has a slightly gray cast. It is similar to condensed milk, with a sourish-bitter taste and a distinctive odour.
Some beekeepers specialize solely in the production of royal jelly. Simply put, we produce royal jelly by adding barely hatched larvae grafted into specially prepared waxen queen cups to a bee colony, which doesn`t have a queen. Because the bees want to rear a new queen, they rapidly start feeding larvae with royal jelly. The larvae are literally swimming in royal jelly. After 72 hours we then remove the added cups, take out the larvae and are left with royal jelly.


Trailer 1: The preparation of cell bars for the extraction of royal jelly

The bars are holding cups made out of beeswax with a special mould. Each cup is filled with a single drop of royal jelly from a stactometer. The jelly has been diluted with destilled water. And thus we prepare the cell bar for grafting of larvae.


Trailer 2: The grafting of larvae into queen cups

We remove a comb of young larvae from the bee colony and brush off the bees from it, then put it on a stand to make our task easier. We illuminate the comb with a lamp to better see the larvae in their cells. Then we start catching as small larvae as possible from cells with a special grafting tool. The larva is resting at the bottom of the cell and is shaped like a crescent moon. We carefully grab it from the back side and transfer it to a drop of royal jelly in the queen cup. For an experienced beekeeper this is an easy task.

Trailer 3: The insertion of a cell bar into a bee colony

After grafting the larvae into all the cups on a cell bar, the bar is ready for the insertion into a bee colony. The colony needs to be prepared for the production of royal jelly beforehand. It must be stressed that royal jelly can be produced only in strong bee colonies, where there is a sufficient number of young nurse bees. In the brood chamber where the cell with the queen is located, we choose two combs of uncapped brood and move it to the middle of food chamber. In the process we have to be careful not to move the queen together with the brood to the food chamber. As can be seen in this trailer, we then put a special frame with a cell bar with grafted larvae between the two brood combs in the food chamber. The queen excluder that separates the brood chamber from the food chamber in the hive has to be almost fully covered with a hardboard to allow the bees only a few centimeters of free passage. This has to be done so the bees in the food chamber think they are queenless and quickly start feeding additional larvae in cups with royal jelly.

Trailer 4: The removal of a cell bar from a bee colony

Exactly 72 hours after the insertion of a cell bar into a colony, the bar has to be removed, as this is the time when the cups contain the greatest amount of royal jelly. We pull out the frame with the cell bar, remove the cell bar and brush off the bees.


Trailer 5: Preparation for the extraction of royal jelly

The bees have lengthened the walls of the cups and have filled them with royal jelly. The walls of the cups have to be cut off with a sharp knife to make the removal of larvae and extraction of royal jelly easier.

Trailer 6: Removal of larvae

The queen larvae have to be removed from the queen cups so that only royal jelly is left in the cups.

Trailer 7: Extraction of royal jelly

All that we have to do now is to scrape the royal jelly out of the queen cups with a wooden spoon and store it in a glass jar. The jar has to be kept in a refrigerator. As a curiosity it should be noted that in order to extract one kilogram of royal jelly, at least 2000 queen cups have to be emptied. The footage was taken at queen breeder Avgust Bučar from Janče.

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