How do bees make royal jelly? (5 remarkable steps)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, ‘How do bees make royal jelly?’. We will look at the exquisite properties of royal jelly and the reasons it makes it a fascinating substance. We will also explore the practical significance of royal jelly in the beehive and to people.

How do bees make royal jelly?

Royal jelly is different from honey; physically and compositionally. 

Royal jelly, also called bee-milk, constitutes water, proteins, and sugar.

The worker bees secrete the jelly from the head to feed the young ones. For three days, all the babies are privileged with royal jelly. After which, the designated larvae that will become the queen bee is the only one that feeds on the royal jelly. 

All of the larvae, regardless of caste or gender, are fed royal jelly. Then they proceed to develop as males, workers, and queens. The queen bee is fed and showered with royal jelly throughout their entire lives. The worker bees feed on a mixture of royal jelly, pollen, and honey.

What makes ordinary bees qualify as queen bees? 

It is the diet that assigns the caste. Initially, there is no difference between the queen bee and the worker bee. All of the bees are genetically identical. There is no physiological difference that distinguishes queen bees. The environmental factor that is the diet is the driving force. The influence of a rich and special diet modifies an ordinary bee and makes it the queen bee.

A kind of unique sugar present in the royal jelly influences the caste system. The queen larva gets to eat the jelly in a higher amount than other bees. 

The queen bees gain superiority over the other bees owing to their larger size and the ability to reproduce.

The royal jelly is an expensive substance made with an immense effort from the nurse or worker bees. 

  • It starts when the bee-keeper starts a colony of nurse bees, the nurse bees are responsible for feeding the young ones. 
  • Then the bee-keeper inserts wax or plastic cups into the colony. Each cup has a honey bee egg. 
  • The workers start raising queens while the nurse bees fill the cups with royal jelly.
  • Roughly after the third day of larval development, the bee-keeper removes the royal jelly from the queen cups using their suction device. 

The bee-keeper must be punctual when she harvests the royal jelly; otherwise, some of the royal jellies become useless. 

The worker bee is capable of producing 500 grams or 17 ounces of royal jelly per season.

The hypopharyngeal gland of the nurse bees secretes the royal jelly. The secretion from the worker bees has a constant composition. 

One of the four proteins is called major royal jelly proteins. The two proteins provide nitrogen and anti-microbial protection to the larvae.   

  Royal jelly is a remarkable feat of nature. The fact that its production is in such small quantities makes it more desirable. Throughout history, royal jelly has been a delicacy. 

What are the characteristics of royal jelly?

Royal Jelly is mostly protein, precisely referred to as a Major Royal Jelly Protein. 60-70 % of royal jelly is water. The other constituents are; carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenol, and flavenoids. 

The pH lies between 3.6-4.2. A unique combination of bioactive substances gives the royal jelly various pharmacological properties.  

Royal Jelly is a complex gelatinous substance that is yet to have its compounds discovered. Royal jelly’s secret compounds alter the gene expression in bees. 

Gene expression is encoded information in a gene that assembles the proteins. The proteins perform the encoded instruction and follow particular tasks and expressions.

A Greek study brought forward that over 60 bio-active compounds are present in the royal jelly, of which amino acids and saccharides were predominant. Amino acids are molecules that make up protein structure, while saccharides are sugars. 

Other FAQs about Jelly which you may be interested in.

How long does unopened jelly last?

What are the Health Benefits of Royal Jelly?

The white liquid is around 66% water, 13 % protein, 15% carbohydrates, and 5 % fatty acids. Royal Jelly is nutrient-rich in B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin biotin, folic acid, and niacin.

It also contains collagen, the protein that synthesizes our hair, nails, and skin. 

Royal Jelly is made into a nutritional supplement because of its health benefits that include:

  1. It boosts stamina and fatigue.
  2. It maintains a healthy heart by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.
  3. It increases immunity. The anti-microbial properties are effective against a diverse range of bacteria.
  4. It increases fertility by balancing hormones and promoting overall health.

The antioxidant compounds present are Flavonoids, polyphenolic compounds, and some organic acids. 

Royal jelly is used as an ingredient also in some recipes, such a fudge, tea, and smoothie.

In this brief guide, we answered the question, ‘How do bees make royal jelly?’. We looked at the exquisite properties of royal jelly and the reasons it makes it a fascinating substance. We also explored the practical significance of royal jelly in the beehive and to people.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.