Welcome! Here are 10 things you need to know about

zapp1. ZAP! is made up of 2 ingredients: 95% organic sugar cane alcohol and 100% raw Ontario propolis.

2. What is propolis? Honey bees collect plant resin on their hind legs and deposit it in their nest, where they often combine it with beeswax. This age-old alchemy creates propolis [5]. Propolis is Greek for “pro” – in front of or defense of “polis”, which means “city”. Propolis essentially means “before the city”.

3. Why do honey bees collect plant resin? Honey bees have 1/3 of the genes involved in immunity function compared to the fruit fly and the mosquito [1], which they make up for in other ways: social grooming, and collecting propolis to name a few. Studies show that honey bee hives that have a “propolis envelope” are less susceptible to bacterial, viral, and fungal infections [2, 4].

4. What kinds of plants does the resin come from? The chemical composition of propolis is complex and can vary between plant types, which means there is less likelihood of pathogens developing resistance to it [5]. The main sources of plant resin that honey bees collect from are Populus (cottonwood, poplar, aspen), Betula (birch), Salix (willow), and Alnus (alder), and Aesculus (horse chestnut) [2,4].

5. I designed the formula for ZAP! while pursuing my Masters in Environmental Science at University of Guelph’s Honey Bee Research Centre. After pouring over dozens and dozens of research papers about propolis, I came to learn that its antiviral properties have been studied on the herpes simplex virus and the influenza virus. I passed a vial of my propolis tincture to my older sister, who was suffering from large, painful, and very persistent cold sores. My sister has been using this tincture since 2010 and says it’s the fastest acting treatment she has ever used.

6. Speaking of fast acting, ZAP! is also 100% all-natural. There are only 2 ingredients and NO synthetics!

7. ZAP! comes as a liquid in an amber vial. It has a pleasant vanilla-like odour and goes on clear.

8. DO NOT take the dropper out of the vial. It’s important that you don’t introduce your cold sore virus to the tincture. You don’t want viral resistance forming, do you?

9. ZAP! is only $10 for 4mL – that’s a whole lotta bang for your buck!

10. As the name implies, ZAP! will zap your cold sores into oblivion! Apply a small drop of ZAP! to your cold sore and you’ll feel it go to work immediately, and expect it to sting a bit. It’s a treatment, not a cure.

To order ZAP! please send an email to beesforlife.net@gmail.com


1. Evans JD, Aronstein K, Chen YP, Hetru C, Imler JL, et al. (2006) Immune pathways and defence mechanisms in honey bees Apis mellifera. Insect Mol.Biol.15(5): 645–656.

2. Evans, JD, Spivak, M (2010) Socialized medicine: Individual and communal disease barriers in honey bees. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 103, S62–S72

3. Gekker G, Hua S, Spivak M, Lokensgard JR, Peterson PK (2005) Anti-HIV-1 activity of propolis in CD4+ lymphocyte and microglial cell cultures. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 102, 158–163.

4. Simone-Finstrom MD, Spivak M (2012) Increased Resin Collection after Parasite Challenge: A Case of Self-Medication in Honey Bees? PLoS ONE 7(3): e34601.doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0034601

5. Wilson MB, Spivak M, Hegeman AD, Rendahl A, Cohen JD (2013) Metabolomics reveals the origins of antimicrobial plant resins collected by honey bees. PLoS ONE 8(10): e77512. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077512

Return of the Queen

janine queen bee

It’s good to be back, even if it is just for a quick check-in. Things are always in motion, and I’m sure we all wouldn’t have it any other way. Up-coming articles will include my guerrilla-style wax purification method, and the scientific breakdown of HOW the queen keeps millions of sperm alive in her spermatheca for at least 4 years.

Til then,

Bee Good

Water: It’s what we’re made of

"come here often?"

“come here often?”

One of the most crucial requirements for choosing a location for honey bee colonies is the presence of fresh and accessible water. Honey bees need water, just like nearly everything else on this blue planet. Water quite often becomes a matter of life or death during the peak heat of summer, where temperatures within the colony must be maintained around 33-35 degrees C , so that the brood doesn’t get cooked to death. When things really start to heat up inside the hive, bees actually switch from nectar and pollen foraging to water collecting, and tell their nest mates to do so by using the Tremble Dance. Stay tuned for more on the incredible use of “dancing” in honey bee communication.

So, the forager bees have been danced at, which tells them to switch from food collection to water collection. The water is brought back to the colony, where the bees air condition the hive by evaporating the water with their wings and mouths. I have seen many creative solutions to having a lack of water in the bee yard; one being a turtle-shaped kiddie pool with sand and rocks in the bottom. The rain did a fairly good job at keeping the pool filled with water, and the gradual slope of the pool (meant for kid bums) gave the bees a spot to land safely to grab a drink. The beekeeper must ensure that the bees can access the water without drowning. Another solution I saw used near Oaxaca, Mexico was re-used plastic yogurt containers, which was very thoughtful of the beekeeper, except for the fact that the water level needed to be maintained regularly so the bees could still perch and drink.

fill 'er up!

fill ‘er up!

Regardless of how you do it, it still needs to be done, and is a necessity for overall productivity. And just as a side note, providing a watering hole is highly beneficial for other critters such as birds, butterflies, frogs, and everybody else!

Bees Live Danger

I have been away from the computer for a little while, that’s for sure! Things really do pick up quickly once the bee season starts. I’m currently looking after my own hives and getting geared up for when my Dad’s buckwheat crop comes into full-swing. Buckwheat honey tends to be a little strong-flavoured in my opinion, but tastes amazing when mixed with another kind such as sunflower or wildflower.

I’m also working on a longer article about the science behind how the queen honey bee keeps millions of sperm alive in her spermatheca for more than 4 years; a topic that has interested me so much that I want to get right to the bottom of it before I rise it to the top!

In the meantime, enjoy this photo of me “hard at work” at one of my friend’s bee-yards in Ottawa.

Bee Good!

Cool as a Cucumber

Cool as a Cucumber

Beeware the Bulldoody Chemical Companies Tell You

The current “bee friendly” non-neonicotinoid seed coating made available to farmers this coming season is a fungicide called “Maxim Quattro“. I called the manufacturer Syngenta to get more info, and they told me that since this chemical is a fungicide, little to no toxicity assays for this product were performed on honey bees. I acquired the chemical composition of Maxim Quattro and found some pathetically vague results:

Maxim Quattro = 1. Fludioxonil: “slightly toxic/practically non-toxic” to bees 2. Thiabendazole: “relatively” non-toxic 3. Metalaxyl-M: non-toxic 4. Azoxystrobin: “slightly hazardous” to bees

Toxicity studies are also severely antiquated, and do not account for all the routes of exposure a bee can be subjected to when a complex synthetic chemical enters the ecosystem (e.g. via guttation)

Sherlock Holmes and Beekeeping

Sherlock tells Batman that the secret to his longevity is Royal Jelly

Sherlock tells Batman that the secret to his longevity is Royal Jelly

When asked to describe what beekeeping is like I would usually liken it to specialized detective work. I would approach the colony and look for external signs of distress or disease, and the amount and appearance of any dead bees. I would also watch for the level of colony activity, and whether or not I could see any workers returning with pollen in their corbicula. I would then remove the lid and crack the inner cover, and immediately smell for any sign of disease within the hive (American and European Foulbrood has a very distinct odour). I could go on and on about all the troubleshooting and deductions a good beekeeper can do when they’re diagnosing a situation inside an ailing beehive. It feels like very rewarding detective work, so it’s no wonder that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had his Sherlock Holmes retire to become a beekeeper; a fact that stays consistent in several versions of Holmes’ later years.

Sherlock Holmes is a Beekeeper

Land Fill = Land Full: Reducing Plastic Waste

Not bee-related, but important nevertheless.

not a fashion statement

not a fashion statement

Consumers have something called “buying power” that they can exert on retail markets and can make environmentally responsible choices on a daily basis. The only sticking point is when a better option is not available, the consumer should then question whether buying the product is actually necessary. In addition to being more aware, the consumer can also be happy about the fact that they are indeed making a difference. Now, I’m nowhere near on any high horse here, but these are several examples of how I buy and why:

1. Chewing Gum: it’s getting harder and harder these days to find gum that isn’t packaged in those infuriating and truly unnecessary blister packs.

chew it, spit it, toss it

chew it, spit it, toss it

The chewing gum itself is a rather pointless commodity that lasts a mere few hours, while its packaging, once emptied, lasts for decades in the dump.

Solution: There are still a few varieties that I treat myself to when I come across them…and wait until I do to buy gum. The first are those bulk Clorets boxes; loose chiclets that come in a cardboard box, and surprisingly doesn’t come sealed in those thin plastic wraps you see floating in the wind or on top of a puddle. Sometimes I might be fortunate enough to find Wrigley’s Double Mint or Big Red; sticks of gum that come in a cardboard casing, and are wrapped in tin foil.

2. Lighters: ok, so those plastic lighters come in all sorts of nifty colours and groovy designs, and might give you an edge over recovering your lighter from a sticky-fingered friend who is notorious for “borrowing” your lighters. Unfortunately, these lighters are made of really thick plastic and are typically non-refillable, so they get tossed in the garbage where many of them make their way into our water ecosystem. Sadly, due to their buoyancy and bright colours these hunks o’ junk are mistaken as food by many aquatic critters like birds and fish. If you haven’t seen the appalling consequences of adult albatrosses feeding these lighters to their young, then have a look here

Solution: Buy matches! Use a refillable lighter!

3. If you had a gander at the photos, you’ll also notice that the albatross chicks were fed a wide variety of other plastics, one being disposable tampon applicators. The environmental and economic benefits to using menstrual cups should be made known to everybody, so that even a father may educate his daughter about the benefits of using one.

Solution: Menstrual cups and here’s the short list why:

i. There is zero waste or plastics used, which can add up over the span of each of those 5 days, month after month, year after year. ii. Absolutely no risk of toxic shock syndrome and no risk of the highly unpleasant chaffed, stinky “pad crotch”. iii. These cups last for several years as long as you clean them properly. After spending an initial $40 or so, you’re saving money by the 3rd month! iv. It’s really hard on your septic tank when you flush those ol’ tampons down your toilet.

4. It may seem as though I actually like plastic bags based on the amount that I hoard under my kitchen sink, but I don’t. I reuse plastic bread bags when I clean out my cat’s litter, which is yet another way I can put that plastic bag to use before it goes to the landfill.

There are many more ways consumers can use their buying power to reduce landfill waste, like not buying bottled water, employing a reusable coffee mug, and using cloth/paper bags. Feel free to comment on ways you have been part of the solution too.

such lovely foliage!

such lovely foliage!

The healing properties of honey – with the Ontario Veterinary College

If you were to take a look at my bee resume you’d get a small glimpse of all the different types of research-themed pies I had my fingers in over the years. Back in 2007, Dr. Karol Mathews made multiple visits to the University of Guelph Honey Bee Research Centre to purchase our raw honey. I almost instantly developed a nerd-girl crush on Dr. Mathews, and wanted to find out exactly what she was doing with all this raw honey she was buying on behalf of the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC). As soon as I found out, my almost-crush was then upgraded to absolute. Dr. Mathews (who told me to call her Karol) was using the raw honey as a topical antibiotic/medication for drag and burn victims that would come into the OVC.

A camera crew came to the Bee Lab to shoot a video about all this one day in early April 2008. Even though you can’t see me directly, I made a point of being in view, or at least in the background. The following video has some graphic scenes, and the beginning to around the 6:50 minute mark shows several shots of burn victims and open wounds…and might not be for the squeamish.

The Bee Lab action starts at 6:52, with me in the shot over Paul’s right shoulder at 8:48. I believe Dr. Mathews is on to something so simple and accessible to pet-owners and veterinarians alike (the human applications are endless too!). There are almost too many facets to what medicinal honey is about, but the first few are: 1. Antibiotic resistance is almost futile when using raw honey. 2. Medicinal honey is non-toxic and will not contaminate/harm your animal or household. 3. Medicinal honey is yet another superb way beekeepers can be supported by the masses.

If you want to learn more, type in “Karol Mathews medicinal honey” into Google or Google Scholar.

Bee-keeping Busy

beekeeping scene by yours truly

beekeeping scene by yours truly

I receive many bee-themed gifts, all of which are delightful. One of my favourites were these model railroad layout beekeepers my older sister gave me. I had a sudden urge to do something with them one night and switched off the TV/internet and put a vinyl on the turntable. I went to the kitchen and made some good old fashioned play dough from flour, salt, a little bit of oil, and water. While the dough was still wet, I coloured it in with a couple different shades of green markers, and stuck in the beekeepers and a bunch of other stuff from around my house. I like how the bees are bigger in proportion to the beekeepers, because they really, truly are.



Bee Whispering

Once you get to know honey bees as I have, you’ll find an extra-special spot for them deep in your psyche. Interest and passion for honey bees likely comes from the primitive vestiges of our heart-brain, where a human knows that making friends with this insect actually ensures survival. The honey bee can provide a human with surplus honey that serves as both food and medication, beeswax for light and fuel, and highly proteinaceous larvae and pollen for eating (which I have tried – not bad!).

I fell under their spell many years ago, and make a point of always having a hive or two (or 30) of my own. There is something highly rewarding about good beekeeping, but the feelings are hard to narrow down into a few words. One of the recurring feelings I get is that of acceptance…that the bees are accepting me; I am not an intruder, but an admiring servant. Another feeling is that if you learn how to listen to the bees, you will be able to hear when they are sick, angry, happy, or in need of a new queen. Sounds crazy! I guess it kinda is…especially considering that any of this needs to be experienced first hand, as opposed to being written about.

On a sunny day in March of last winter, I went and checked up on them. I have this ritualistic thing that I do when it’s relatively warm out and the bees start flying around…and this time I filmed it.