Royal jelly

So, what is royal jelly?

Royal jelly, sometimes referred to as the bee milk is a product of the bee and not the flower. It is secreted by the hypopharyngial glands of young worker bees and fed to the queen and young larvae three days and below.

Under normal circumstances in the hive, this product is fed directly to the queen and give in limited quantities to the young larvae and is not necessarily stored in the hive.

It is only under the circumstance of queen rearing that excess amounts of royal jelly are stored in queen cells for the growing queen larvae. This is the process beekeepers are able to exploit to harvest this rare product.

To give you a bit of background understanding of the effect of royal jelly on bees. Queen bees and worker bees are genetically similar, however, they bear significant morphological, developmental, reproductive and behavioral differences. They also have significant difference in their lifespans and all this can be traced to their diet.

The worker bee larvae are fed on royal jelly only for three days of their lives while the queen larvae are fed on royal jelly throughout their lives.

This discovery elicited human interest in royal jelly with curiosity to find out if this product would have the same effect on humans. This led to the innovations of systems and procedures for production and unlimited trials and diversity in usage.

In the next few paragraphs, I will explore some salient concepts about the royal including its composition and health benefits

What is in royal jelly?

Interest in royal jelly has seen many chemical analyses to try to demystify this unusual product.

From the documented literature, royal jelly contains water, protein, sugars, lipids and mineral salts. These may occur within some level of variation but generally, the composition of royal jelly appears stable across regions and bee races.

In freshly harvested royal jelly, water makes up about two-thirds of the composition of royal jelly, however, when considered on dry matter basis, proteins and sugars form the largest proportion.

Six major proteins, four of which are glycoproteins, free amino acids and peptides of nitrogenous substances stand out.

All the 29 essential amino acids and their derivatives have been identified in royal jelly, the most important being aspartic acid and glutamic acids.

Free amino acids identified include proline and lysine

A number of enzymes are also present in royal jelly including glucose oxidase, phosphatase, and cholinesterase

Sugars in royal jelly majorly consist of glucose and fructose as in the case of honey, other sugars available in trace quantities may include maltose, trehalose, melibiose, ribose, and erlose

The lipid content of royal jelly is unique, it consists of a large percentage (up to 90%) of unusual fatty acids that do not conform to the carbon chain length of fatty acids from plant or animal origin.

The fatty acids in royal jelly have unusually short carbon chain – 8 to 10 carbon atoms (hydroxy fatty acids or dicarboxylic acids) in contrast to the usual 14 to 20 carbon atoms. These fatty acids are responsible in the main to the major documented biological properties of royal jelly

Royal jelly also contains minerals with some mineral salts are, in descending order: K, Ca, Na, Zn, Fe, Cu, and Mn, with a strong prevalence of potassium (Benfenati et al., 1986).

Several vitamins have also been identified in royal jelly some of which are: thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, niacin, folic acid, inositol, and biotin.

The above highlight gives us the main constituents of royal jelly, several other compounds have been documented which are not covered here, there are other aspects of royal jelly that remain unknown to the analytical science.

Health benefits of royal jelly

  1. Skin tonic and anti-wrinkle
  2. Stimulant for – physical performance, better memory, learning capacity, and self-confidence
  3. Improves appetite
  4. Enhances sexual desire and performance
  5. Manages both high low blood pressure
  6. Enhances resistance to viral infection
  7. Manages anemia
  8. Manages arteriosclerosis
  9. Manages cholesterol level
  10. Manages influenza


Bee propolis and royal jelly as primary bee products have immense medicinal properties that could heal so many of the diseases we suffer today.

Science and technology has also availed capacity and means to accurately determine the composition of these products and to mix and manufacture high-quality by-products from them. This is a great opportunity, therefore, to take full advantage of the solutions nature provides to us and to explore new ways of alternative healthcare.

I invite you to post comments or questions below and don’t fail to contact me should you require any further help with the content of this post or any issue concerning beekeeping.

Thank you

David Palla