What is Royal Jelly?


Queen Cell

Here at the Savannah Bee Company we commonly use four different hive ingredients in our Health and Beauty product line, honey, beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly. Honey is a natural cleanser and skin softener. Beeswax protects the skin and prevents water loss. Propolis is known for its antibiotic and antiseptic qualities. But, what is royal jelly?

Royal jelly is a substance secreted from glands near the head region of worker bees. In the honeybee hive environment, royal jelly may be thought of as a combination baby food and queen food. The technical term for baby bees is larvae. All honeybee larvae are fed royal jelly for the first few days of their lives. It’s like a heavy dose of mega-nutrition to get the young bee off on the right foot. The feeding of the future queen bee is a bit more interesting. Worker bees will begin the process of “growing” a new queen by completely filling a special cell in the comb called a queen cell with royal jelly. The larvae selected to be the future queen spends her early days literally swimming in royal jelly. Interestingly, at this point she is genetically identical to all other worker bee larvae. It is in fact the prolonged feeding of royal jelly that initiates her genetic transformation into the Queen! This individual will continue to be fed royal jelly for the remainder of her life, which is quite long by worker bee standards. So, consumption of royal jelly by the future queen actually transforms her into the queen phenotype (fancy word for body type). In addition this miraculous secretion allows this individual to live up to five years compared to the eight month average lifespan of the typical worker bee.

Although royal jelly is mostly water, it is very nutritious. Royal jelly contains a fair amount of protein, trace minerals, and vitamins (particularly high levels of B vitamins). The use of royal jelly topically has been shown to ease the symptoms of drying, itching, discoloration, and burning associated with a variety of skin conditions. Royal Jelly is a key ingredient in several of our Health and Beauty products. Check out the Savannah Bee Health and Beauty line today!

Products including royal jelly:

Beeswax Lip Balms

Beeswax Hand Cream

Royal Jelly Body Butter

Savannah Bee Shampoo

Savannah Bee Body Wash


Submitted By: Brantley Crowder

Comments (5)

  1. Salima says:

    The royal butter “in the blue box” is AMAZING!!!!! It feels like heaven in a jar. I said that to the lady in the store in Cape May NJ!! lol. I will be ordering online since I am in VA!

  2. Kim says:

    Thank you for such an interesting article.

    How is Royal Jelly harvested?

    1. brantley says:

      To harvest royal jelly a beekeeper will use beeswax and create several mock “queen cells”. These queen cells are attached to frames and placed into a queenless hive. In preparation for a queen the worker bees will manufacture surplus royal jelly and fill each of these queen cells. The beekeeper will watch these cells very closely and remove them as soon as they are filled by the worker bees. A queen cell is about the size of a thimble if not smaller, so the royal jelly is harvested in many tiny amounts. As you might imagine, this is very tedious work!

  3. Andrea Pett says:

    I love your products-we recently had a hive safely relocated from our yard and the beekeeper was explaining the process to me for extracting Royal Jelly and he said all the queens become trash/byproducts of the process, basically used for their jelly then discarded-Can you confirm? is your process more cruelty free? Thanks

    1. brantley says:

      Hi Andrea, unfortunately you have discovered the dark under-belly of beekeeping. It is true that the larval queen dies when the royal jelly is harvested from the queen cells. Typically this would-be queen is only a few days old and still very much in her larval stage. Interestingly, I asked the same question of our head Beekeeper when I was writing the royal jelly post. His response brought me a little comfort (at least by way of rationalization). He said that any apiary that is collecting royal jelly on a production level is also taking care of and supporting hundreds, if not thousands, of beehives. So, these beekeepers are raising millions of honey bees each year. I did find that around ten years ago one study used “fake” larvae in their Queen cells experimentally to see if the workers would respond by filling the cells with royal jelly. This study failed and none of the cells received any royal jelly. Savannah Bee does not produce royal jelly for commercial purposes. We outsource this ingredient for our health and beauty line from a very reputable apiary.

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