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!

Save the Bees Project in London culminates with a Paint Party, Music and Free Seeds at Rockwell House

inspiring and important

Inspiring City

Campaigning street artists Louis Masai and Jim Vision have joined forces over the past week to raise awareness amongst London’s Eastenders about the dangers posed to Britains Bee population.

The issue has been well trailled over the past few years with more and more acknowledgment given to the fact that if something isn’t done soon then a key part of our eco-system could end up seizing up as the pollinators suddenly disappear.

Jim Vision live painting at Rockwell House Jim Vision live painting at Rockwell House

In order to highlight the issue, walls have been painted across the East End in Shoreditch, Hackney and Bethnal Green and the message couldn’t be any more clear ‘When we go, we’re taking you all with us’. The hashtag #savethebees is the call to action and anyone turning up to see the artists painting could go home with a packet of free seeds which local folk will plant in their own…

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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