One of the Bee products that people often rave about, and actually want in their skincare products, or supplements, is royal jelly. When I want to buy a supplement or a skincare product, I do NOT want any royal jelly. Here are the reasons why:
Bee keeping can be done in two distinctly different ways, (and anything in between). Gentle bee keeping is all about the protection and well-being of the bees. In Gentle bee keeping, (what we practice), the idea is to be as non-invasive as possible. That means: Not taking any brood out of the brood box to tamper with. Not artificially raising or removing any queens, drones, or larvae. Leaving the honey in the brood box for the bees, and not harvesting that at all. Sometimes the only and foremost goal is to make money, regardless of the “family structure” of the bee swarm.
Back to royal jelly. This is a white, creamy textured substance, produced by hypopharyngeal glands of nurse bees. It is fed to the queen and all bee lavea for the first 3 days after hatching. Only larvae destined to become queens, are fed royal jelly exclusively. There are many reasons why royal jelly is believed to be a super food and superior substance. The queen bee is much larger, stronger and more fertile than her lesser (pun intended) family members, therefor it is assumed that royal jelly is the “magic” for achieving this. The science is inconclusive, many studies says that royal jelly is not superior to other bee products.
The real question, in deciding whether or not to use royal jelly, is a matter of conscience. There are two ways of harvesting, or obtaining royal jelly from honey bees. Both are equally invasive and downright cruel. The first way is to remove about three frames from the brood box. (Remember this is the “house” part of the bee hive, that we are not suppose to touch). Some of the cells on these three frames are larger, which are the cells of larvae destined to become queens. When the larvae are 4 days old, these cells, now stocked with royal jelly, are cut open, the larvae are taken out with tweezers and discarded. The royal jelly is sucked out with a pipette or scraped out, and refrigerated or frozen for later use in food supplements or cosmetics. This method is done by hand. The three frames are placed back in the brood box, and over time, the cells are filled again with larvae. This method is popular in China.
The second method involves machines, and is even worse for the health and well being of the swarms. Frames from brood boxes are taken out, and a large amount of 1-day old larvae are placed in special frames with plastic cells. The queen is then removed from the different swarms. The frames with the plastic cells are put back. The swarm is now in a state of frenzy, because they are left orphaned, so they start to produce large amounts of royal jelly and deposit it in the plastic cells, in the hope of raising a new queen. At day three the plastic cells are opened, and the large amount of larvae discarded. A special machine sucks out the royal jelly and encapsulate it at the same time in gelatine capsules. It is then refrigerated and sold directly to the health industry. The swarm is still without a queen, and because her pheromones are now gone, the ovaries of the worker bees develop, and they start to lay eggs. Their offspring will only be drones, and the whole family structure of the hive is destroyed. This process takes about three weeks, and the swarm is then poisoned, as it is now rendered “useless”. Because of the time it takes to artificially re-introduce a grown queen it is easier and less costly to start over with a healthy swarm. This method of royal jelly harvesting is popular in New-Zeeland.
There are definite reasons why bee farmers are often accused of being exploiters! So, whether royal jelly is actually a super food for humans, still needs to be proved, but either way, the bee farmers of Quercus do not want to have anything to do with this industry.