Propolis and bee health: the natural history and significance of resin use by honey bees

Propolis et santé de l’abeille : l’histoire naturelle et la signification de l’utilisation de résine végétale chez les abeilles

Propolis und Bienengesundheit: Die Naturgeschichte und die Bedeutung des Gebrauchs von Pflanzenharzen durch Bienen

Abstract

Social immunity, which describes how individual behaviors of group members effectively reduce disease and parasite transmission at the colony level, is an emerging field in social insect biology. An understudied, but significant behavioral disease resistance mechanism in honey bees is their collection and use of plant resins. Honey bees harvest resins with antimicrobial properties from various plant species and bring them back to the colony where they are then mixed with varying amounts of wax and utilized as propolis. Propolis is an apicultural term for the resins when used by bees within a hive. While numerous studies have investigated the chemical components of propolis that could be used to treat human diseases, there is a lack of information on the importance of propolis in regards to bee health. This review serves to provide a compilation of recent research concerning the behavior of bees in relation to resins and propolis, focusing more on the bees themselves and the potential evolutionary benefits of resin collection. Future research goals are also established in order to create a new focus within the literature on the natural history of resin use among the social insects and role that propolis plays in disease resistance.

Zusammenfassung

Die „soziale Immunität“ als neues Forschungsfeld bei sozialen Insekten beschreibt, wie das individuelle Verhalten von Mitgliedern einer Gruppe wirkungsvoll die Verbreitung von Krankheiten und Parasiten auf der Ebene des Sozialstaates verhindern kann. Ein bisher zwar wenig untersuchtes aber wichtiges Verhaltensmerkmal zur Krankheitsabwehr bei Honigbienen ist die Verwendung von Pflanzenharzen. Honigbienen sammeln Harze mit antimikrobiellen Eigenschaften von verschiedenen Pflanzen, mischen diese dann im Bienenvolk mit unterschiedlichen Mengen von Wachs und benutzen dies als Propolis (Abb. 1–4). Propolis ist demnach der bienenkundliche Begriff für Harze, die im Bienenstock verwendet werden. Während es zahlreiche Untersuchungen zur Verwendung bestimmter Bestandteile des Propolis zur Krankheitsbekämpfung beim Menschen gibt, sind kaum Informationen über die Bedeutung von Propolis für die Bienengesundheit vorhanden.

Dieses Review ist eine Zusammenstellung neuerer Forschungsergebnisse zum Verhalten der Bienen in Bezug auf Harze und Propolis mit dem Schwerpunkt auf die möglichen evolutiven Vorteile des Harzsammelns für die Honigbienen. Die Verwendung von Harzen durch Bienenvölker (Apis mellifera) ist weit verbreitet. Während es erhebliche Unterschiede zwischen einzelnen Völkern bzgl. der Menge an gesammelten Harzen und Propolis gibt, scheinen alle — und dabei insbesondere die wildlebenden — Bienenvölker das Propolis zur Auskleidung des gesamten Stockinneren zu benutzen. Es wird angenommen, dass Propolis dazu beiträgt, die Homöostase innerhalb des Bienenstockes aufrecht zu erhalten. Konkret könnte das Propolis dabei das mikrobielle Wachstum an den Beutenwänden reduzieren, unkontrollierten Luftzug ins Beuteninnere verhindern und zusätzlich mechanische Barrieren gegenüber Eindringlingen bilden. Einige Forschungsprojekte zeigen eindeutig, dass Propolis im Bienenstock direkt gegenüber Krankheitserregern (z.B. Amerikanische Faulbrut) und Parasiten (z.B. Kleiner Beutenkäfer, Varroa destructor) wirkt. Daneben scheint es aber auch eine subtilere Wirkung über die Unterstützung des individuellen Immunsystems zu geben. Die weiteren Forschungen sollten sich auf das bessere Verständnis der Verwendung von Harzen durch Honigbienen und andere soziale Insekten konzentrieren. Dafür gibt es eine Vielzahl an Forschungsfeldern, von den pharmazeutischen Möglichkeiten des Propolis für die menschliche Gesundheit über die Mechanismen der Sammelstrategie von Propolis auf den Ebenen der Einzelbienen und des Bienenvolkes bis hin zu einer möglichen Anwendung von Propolis als Bekämpfung von Bienenkrankheiten. Schließlich ermöglichen Informationen zur Verwendung von Harzen und deren Aufnahme in den Bienenstock spannende Forschungsansätze zum Einfluss der Umwelt auf Krankheitsresistenz und soziale Immunität.

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Correspondence to Michael Simone-Finstrom.

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Simone-Finstrom, M., Spivak, M. Propolis and bee health: the natural history and significance of resin use by honey bees. Apidologie 41, 295–311 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1051/apido/2010016

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  • Apis mellifera
  • social immunity
  • antimicrobial defense
  • ecological immunity
  • Apis mellifera
  • immunité sociale
  • défense antimicrobienne
  • immunité écologique
  • Apis mellifera
  • Soziale Immunität
  • antimikrobielle Abwehr
  • ökologische Immunität