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Jan. 24, 2022

Venom Collection with Whale Labs' - James Watts (S4, E32)

Venom Collection with Whale Labs' - James Watts (S4, E32)

Today, we welcome James Watts from Whale Labs, in Australia. Whale Labs works on a variety of research projects, but today we talk with him about the honey bee venom collection and the commercial value of that venom. Whale Labs has developed a honey...


Today, we welcome James Watts from Whale Labs, in Australia. Whale Labs works on a variety of research projects, but today we talk with him about the honey bee venom collection and the commercial value of that venom. Whale Labs has developed a honey bee venom collector that is easy to use, does not harm the bees, and makes collecting bee venom fast, easy, safe and very profitable. Moreover, regular collections do not harm the hive, nor reduce honey production.

The collector consists of a glass plate placed in at the entrance of the hive. Alarm pheromone is administered near the entrance of the hive to draw bees out of the hive. When bees start walking on the glass plate, embedded wires in the plate are made to pulse, or vibrate, which irritates the bees, that then sting the glass plate, ejecting venom. The barbed sting does not catch on the plate, so when the bees are empty of venom, they quit and return inside.

The venom crystalizes and is easily gathered by scraping it off the glass plate.

Raw venom in this form can be sold for $80 - $100 per gram. However, if it has the various components extracted, using an HPLC and a mass spectrometer (together valued at somewhere near $100,000), the principle component of this that is used in cosmetics and elsewhere, has a value of somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500/microgram, and one gram of venom contains about 200 micrograms of this particular valuable component.

Whale Labs sells collectors, provides technical support, and the market for the collected products. Visit them at www.Whalelabs.com/au.

Listen today. This could be your next profit generator from your operation.

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Links and websites mentioned in this podcast:

Honey Bee Obscura

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This episode is brought to you by Global Patties! Global Patties is a family business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honey bees. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will help Global Pattiesensure that they produce strong and health colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Global offers a variety of standard patties, as well as custom patties to meet your specific needs. Visit them today at http://globalpatties.com and let them know you appreciate them sponsoring this episode! 

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Transcript

S4, E32 – Venom Collection with Whale Labs' James Watts

[music]

Jeff: Welcome to Bekeeping Today Podcast presented by Bee Culture. Bekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news, information, and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.

Kim: And I'm Kim Flottum.

Introduction: Hey, Jeff and Kim, today's sponsor is Global Patties. They're a family-operated business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honey bees. It's a good time to think about honey bee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Now is a great time to consider what type of patty is right for your area and your honey bees. Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs. No matter where you are, Global is ready to serve you out of their manufacturing plants in Airdrie, Alberta, and in Butte, Montana, or from distribution depots across the continent. Visit them today at www.globalpatties.com.

Jeff: Thank you, Global Patties, and thank you, Sherry. You know, each week, we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor support, and we know you'd rather we get right to talking about beekeeping. However, our super sponsors are critical to help making all of this happen. From transcripts to hosting fees to software to hardware, microphones, recorders, they enable each episode. With that, thanks to Bee Culture Magazine for continuing to presenting sponsorship with this podcast. Bee Culture's been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873. Subscribe to Bee Culture today.

We also want to thank 2 Million Blossoms that sponsored this episode. 2 Million Blossoms is dedicated to protecting all pollinators. Learn more on their new regular podcast at www.2millionblossoms.com. Hey, everybody. Thanks for joining us. We're really happy you're here. Hey Kim, how are you doing? Hey, you know, we have a stinging episode all lined up today.

Kim: Oh, that was bad, Jeff. That was bad.

Jeff: Well, I just can't help myself. How's it going for you?

Kim: I'm looking at 14 inches of snow on the ground. That's going to get, I hope, plowed later this afternoon, and it's going to be colder than you know what for most of the rest of this week, It's winter in Ohio.

Jeff: Kathy's going to be out there shoveling that snow soon. Is that what you were saying?

Kim: No, I think we have graduated past shoveling snow. It's a heart attack waiting to happen, so we've got somebody coming in with a big truck and a plow.

Jeff: Oh, nice. Very good. Have you been out to check on your bees? Do you see any activity at all?

Kim: As soon as it quit snowing, I'm going to go out there. I want to see if there's-- you know what I'd like to see is I'd like to see few dead bees in the snow because then they know that they're cleaning house and things are good. The problem is that it snows again and then it covers up those bees, so you don't know if they're out there or not. Keep your fingers crossed.

Jeff: Yes, we've actually had some non-rainy days. Today, it's in the 50s. I'm looking forward to getting out later today to check on them. Kim, I am looking forward to today's episode. You've written a book on how to business and bees. Did you ever look into bee venom as a business opportunity?

Kim: No, never did, and when I wrote that book, it really wasn't something that was on the horizon, in my horizon, at the time. These folks we're going to talk to today are going to start putting money in your pocket, though, if you're a beekeeper, and it's not going to hurt you, it's not going to hurt your bees, and they do a good job. Just stay tuned because this is going to be good.

Jeff: Yes, I think so too. I've always shied away from-- well, I never really seriously considered venom collection as a high product to consider. Last September, we had Zach Tickner on the show talking about collecting hornets for their venom for medicinal purposes, but this ought to be really good. It offers up new opportunities for us.

Kim: Yes. Should be good.

Jeff: All right, well, let's get right into our interview with James and learn about bee venom and bee venom collection, but first, a quick word from our friends at Strong Microbials.

[music]

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Jeff: Hey, and while you're at the Strong Microbials site, make sure you click on and subscribe to The Hive, their regular newsletter full of interesting beekeeping facts and product updates. Hey, everybody, welcome back. We want to welcome to the podcast today, James Watts from Whale Labs in Australia. James, welcome to the podcast. We're really glad you're here.

James: Oh, well, thank you very much for having me. It's wonderful to be here.

Kim: Nice to meet you, James. Thanks for coming aboard.

Jeff: Yes. Good day, Kim, how are you doing today?

Kim: I'm doing okay. I'm really interested in what you do for a living, let me tell you. I got to tell you just this before we get started, I go back more than 30 years working with some people here in the states, doing what you were doing, and the reading that I've done has brought me up to date. You guys are light years ahead of where we were back then.

Jeff: Well, let's go back and just redo an introduction here because, James, Whale Labs deals with bee venom collection and then the purification of the venom and distributing it to industry for use.

James: Yes, that is also correct, but we also are doing quite a substantial bit of research into the polypeptides and the different aspects of it. At the moment, we're actually running antibiotic tests with bee venoms in comparison with actual other pharmaceutical-grade antibiotics that are available on the market.

Jeff: Well, that's really good. Well, let's get into that because I'm a human venom collector, but I'm not sure your process-- you even market a machine for collecting venom that seems a little bit different than the ones I saw years ago. Why don't we start there at the collection, then we'll go deeper into what Whale Labs does?

James: Oh, yes, definitely. At the main stage of the collectors, the collectors themselves send off a pulse instead of an electric signal. We actually have a control board in there that pulses out like a pulse so that it's a more of an annoyance for the bees versus, say, something that's an electric pulse, which kills the bees. We actually look at the trade-off. Originally, when we were first designing the device, whether or not this would actually harm the bees or not, because we came from a research side of things.

We actually work at UQ doing polypeptides research, and we were finding that when we're putting the original collectors onto the beehive, we were finding a disproportioned amount of bees were dying from it, and we decided we have to come up with our own device that's actually harmless for the bees.

Jeff: Yes. That's my experience or my-- seeing that work is that the bees don't survive the collection process. It becomes very costly to the colony when you put these on there and you do the collection.

James: Definitely. When we originally ran over to Taiwan in 2017, we actually were looking at some of the hives that we're using for venom collection. Well, they were saying that there was around about 60% of the hives just have colony collapse afterwards. It's just almost pointless harvesting it, but they saw it as a consumable, whereas when that hive dies, they just take out the honey, they take out the wax, they take out everything, but at the same time, is it really worth collecting bee venom if the hive is going to die.

Jeff: It increases your cost quite a bit at that point. The collection device sits on in front of the entrance to the hive, the bees coming in, or you wrap on the side of the hive, and the bees come out.

James: Actually designed our alarm pheromone. We had a artificial alarm pheromone which basically along the lines of, we put it on front of the hive and it artificially attracts them out of the hive onto the actual collection plate itself. We thought about these problems and we fix them in that regards in terms of-- well, in our first models, it was a bit hard to get the bees onto the panel because you'd only have that 1 out of 10,000 bees that are actually angry and would actually release their own alarm pheromone. We decided to manipulate nature a bit by actually just supplying an alarm pheromone for the beekeeper.

Jeff: I'm giggling because I come from a family of brothers, and I can just see all sorts of mischief with the alarm pheromone that you could--

James: Oh, yes. We got a lot of warnings on that alarm pheromone, but we've had a bit of mischief with it as well. We had it on a car at one point, and the bees swarmed a car and started stinging all the rubber-

Jeff: Oh gosh.

James: -in between the window. It is an effective tool to use. As long as anything's vibrating, with alarm pheromone, I think that it is actually insect or creature that I guess they have to defend their colony from.

Jeff: Wow. It's definitely another product you don't want to spill in a bee yard along with the honey rob or bigo or whatever the fume board product of choice is. Well, good. Your device sits there, it collects the venom, then does the venom remain a liquid, or does it crystallize? How's that collection process?

James: This is basically if anybody's done organic chemistry, it's pretty simple. As soon as it is exposed to air, it crystallizes pretty quick. Essentially, what's happening with it is that the bees, as soon as they put their venom onto the actual plate itself, it's crystallizing, and that's just like the glucose and everything else, and it actually crystallizes it. It's quite easy to remove that venom from the plate afterwards. It's just the long lines of getting the bees to sting the plate, which essentially doesn't kill them because it's glass. Their barbed hook can't actually interact with it.

Whereas the point of having a barbed hook is with, say, a mammal or bear, is that they can actually get that barbed hook into porous skin and pull it out and create that vacuum, which pumps more venom into the actual creature itself. They don't actually want to die when they sting, which is a big misunderstanding that a lot of people have is that as soon as they sting, they die, but they don't actually want to die. It's just that they have that barb, and whereas such a large creature with porous skin that they want to deliver as much venom as possible into you.

Jeff: No, it's a very effective deterrent. That's for sure.

James: Definitely.

Jeff: Another warning on the product, it's not a product if someone was interested, and we'll get into the economics of venom collection here in a little bit, but it's definitely not something you want you do in a close neighborhood, or if you have a backyard beekeeper, it's something you want to do next to an elementary school.

James: This is actually where a lot of the beekeepers that we know actually are backyard beekeepers, and they find a quite substantial use from it. You're probably more right in the sense that it should be for essentially commercial beekeepers because nobody wants to have slightly annoyed bees at a elementary school or so. It just doesn't make sense. You could say that there's a lot of backyard beekeepers out there who do use the device, but unless you are really sure that it's not going to affect any children or anybody with allergies or any type of problems with allergies with the venom, they're not going to want to put it anywhere near a school.

Kim: Jeff, let me back up here a half a second so that folks listening here have a visual. Your venom collector is a small dinner plate-size glass plate that's placed in the front of the hive. It is somehow armed with the alarm pheromones so that the bees inside are enticed out onto that plate. In that plate, there's embedded some wires that are creating a current so that when the bees steps on--

James: Vibration, yes. It's very low vibration and pressure.

Kim: There's two wires that the bee has to touch at the same time to be stimulated. Correct?

James: It's only one wire that they can touch.

Kim: Only one?

James: Yes.

Kim: That vibration then stimulates them to sting the glass plate. Because it's glass, their sting doesn't go into the plate, it deposits venom until they deposit all of their venom sack on that plate?

James: No.

Kim: They deposit some of it, and then they're done, and they're going to go back home, they fly away. I guess the question is, at what point after some amount of time you turn the device off so it's no longer vibrating and it's no longer stimulating bees to sting and you take the plate and go someplace and clean it off and the bees go, "Well, that wasn't very much fun." Do I have it right?

James: Actually, yes, you've got it exactly right. It's about 45 minutes and they just go back into the hive. They're usually off the plate by the time you're turning it off. They get bored of it and they just don't really particularly want to be on board when I object this thing.

Kim: Well, also I guess that there's a finite population of guard bees in that hive. Not every bee in that hive is equipped to sting. You're going to get the ones that are old enough to sting and have that kind of experience. You're going to essentially milk that population and the rest of them aren't going to come out. Then those that have stung go back home. Then you have to clean this off. How do you clean this plate off?

James: Oh, that's the easy thing. Essentially, it's almost just scraping it off. It's powder that is actually powderized onto it, as long as you're in a dark room and you're not exposed to UV. We are heavily exposed to UV in Australia, so it's a bit more difficult to harvest. You have to harvest within a short period of time after you finish with the collector itself, because if you harvest too soon, essentially, what's going to happen is that it's going to be not enough venom and you're pissed off that high for that day.

You have to leave it on until the bees are probably down to a number of about 10 to 20 bees on the actual device itself, and those guys can just be pushed off, or those girls can be pushed off, and you can essentially take it inside and scrape it off and put it into an amber vial. Why we say amber is because it's just protected from UV. UV is the biggest problem with any biological product. It will just absolutely smash anything that's biological in nature.

Kim: That's something I wasn't aware of, and that's good to know. You collect this, you scrape this off, and then it's been sitting outside for 45 minutes to an hour, bees have been walking on it. There's going to be stuff on that plate other than venom that you're going to have to remove. Is that easy?

James: Yes. Incredibly easy. See, the thing is that, actually, funny enough, we have three different vials, I think. In a book on our website, it's for free, you can get it. Basically, along the lines of, you can pick out legs, you can pick out all the different things out, and it cleans the venom up quite substantially to higher purity, which then all you have to do is put for 0.22 micro on filter, and you can clean it even further and have quite high purity bee venom without any real hassle associated with it.

It's actually quite easy to purify bee venom. I think that there's been a little bit of a scare in the beekeeping community because it's seen as something, "Oh, you'd have to use some really high solvents or use alcohol to purify it," but essentially, you can just use water and then just do a distillation from it, or just leaving it overnight and it will dry pretty readily. It's not too hard to actually filter it out and purify up to a high standard, really high purity.

Jeff: Did you say that was distilled water or just tap water or just distilled water?

James: No, you couldn't use tap water. You'd have to use some bottled water or distilled water correctly.

Jeff: All right. Well, we've collected our venom, and what's our next steps? When we come back, we will about that with James Watts, from Whale Bee Labs, but first, a word from our friends at Betterbee.

[music]

Sponsor: Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today's episode of Beekeeping Today Podcast. For over 40 years, Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment, and knowledge needed to succeed. Because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves, they understand your needs and challenges and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions. From their colorful catalog to their supportive beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast, Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of beekeepers serving beekeepers. See for yourself at betterbee.com.

Jeff: Welcome back, everybody. We're talking with James Watts from Whale Labs, and we're talking about honey bee venom collection. In the first segment, we talked about collecting of the venom, and now, we have our amber vials of venom, we've filtered it, we're getting ready. Now, what do we do?

James: Now, what you can do. Interesting enough, if you want to really make a substantial amount of money from your bee venom, and we're talking one gram of bee venom sells for, let's say, I don't know, $80 to $100. If you want to monopolize, actually increase the value substantially, what you're going to be doing is extracting melittin from the actual bee venom itself.

Melittin routinely makes up about 50% to 60% of a bee's AP toxin. It's essentially quite a high level of polypeptide, but it's really hard to actually get a high purity for-- I guess the high yield from it. What you'll often use is called a high-performance liquid chromatographic machine, a high-performance HPLC. You have to go and purify it for that method. You can actually get quite substantial yields from it.

I think, Sigma, at the moment, Merkle and Sigma, sold Melittin for around about $1,566 per 25 micrograms. A microgram is one-thousandths of a gram. It's a really high purity substance, and melittin is absolutely incredibly expensive. From one gram of venom, you can probably expect around about, I'm just ballparking here from our own experiments, you can probably expect maybe around about 200 micrograms. It's quite substantial yields for it.

Jeff: Let's talk about what is venom. Venom breaks down into what components, and then you talked about melittin and the peptides, what's in venom, and then let's go from there because I have some questions about the HPLC or whatever the machine was that you-- how expensive is that? Anyways, let's go, what is venom?

James: Venom is essentially 52% melittin, 5% apamin, 5% adolapin, AP2 probably around about 15%, and a bunch of other smaller polypeptides that it's probably not worth mentioning at the moment. It's a breakdown of all these amazing polypeptides. Melittin itself is used for disease control. If a hive is very diseased or has invaders like wax moth, you're going to find that the actual hybrid itself, it has high levels of melittin in it.

This is something that not many people know about, but it should be more widely known is that your actual melittin count goes up if you have a diseased hive. Why is that significant? Because melittin itself can cause apoptosis of a bunch of different cell types. It's essential for cleaning out the hives. It's essential for defense. It's essential for a whole bunch of different functionalities. It's an incredibly useful polypeptide. It's one of the polypeptides I wish I had researched, but instead, I focused more on apamin.

When we're doing research, we're focusing on more of the learning aspect of apamin, which was shown to have anti-aging properties, it was shown to increase water rat maze tests. Essentially you put a rat into a maze that was underneath the water. The rats that were actually given the apamin were able to perform in about 20 times quicker than the rats weren't, which were not able to perform. It's has a substantial amount of learning potential or retention of learning.

I think that's mostly due to the calcium-potassium channels in the brain, which basically open up the neuron and allow it to fire more rapidly. I think everybody who's listening to this podcast can probably think of a moment when they were stung by their first bee, but you can't remember certain other aspects, like you can't remember getting bitten by the first dog, you can't remember getting bitten by, I don't know, the first cat, it's essentially, you can remember it because it opens up these sodium-potassium channels in your brain and allows the neurons to fire so rapidly with it.

Kim: Sounds like I could use a quarter too of that, Jeff.

Jeff: I wasn't going say anything, Kim, I wouldn't. We have the major components that I'm going to get the names wrong, and I apologize, the apamin and the melittin and various other polypeptides. That's beyond the reach of the normal beekeeper for breaking down their vial of venom into that, right? They're just collecting their vial of venom dust essentially, or their venom, and then your lab breaks it down into the separate components, is that correct?

James: Yes, we do actually provide a service now that we actually can break down melittin and give you a breakdown of what your venom components are, but we actually are more focused on helping larger commercial beekeeping operations to be able to do this themselves. We are potentially helping them try to, well, first, get all the necessary equipment necessary for being able to break down their venom and be able to get those essential polypeptides out of the bee venom.

The bee venom itself, very useful. You can use it in cosmetics. Obviously, the cosmetics have a lifetime because the melittin actually breaks down certain compounds in it and creates a layer of separation. I guess not many manufacturers, and the funny thing is, is that a lot of manufacturers of bee venom actually, funny enough, are fraudulent because they don't actually have any bee venom. It's just the name. They just contain butyric acid.

Jeff: Oh my gosh. How much would it cost to outfit an operation to collect the venom and then I guess then break it down to at least the useful components? Are we talking about thousands? What are we talking about there?

James: You got a really good point. The cost of getting HPLC is around about $40,000 to $50,000. If you want to be really exact about it, you'd probably be spending maybe around about $100,000 to be able to do what we do, but it's pretty easy. You just need a HPLC and a mass spectrometer. That's it. Those two things will give you a very accurate read on your venom and you can extract them with column affinity or solid-phase extraction if you wish.

Jeff: It doesn't really sound like that's something I can go out and buy at Amazon and can afford on a podcast income, I don't think.

James: I mean, somewhat no, but at the same time, like if you were going to go on to bee venom collection, you want to go full into it instead of-- like you can go and make bee venom products and make the bee venom creams and cosmetics and stuff. There's really no FDA guidelines about toxicity even though the venom is incredibly toxic. It's one of the things that I've always been astounded about that you cannot bring one kilo of honey into Western Australia but you can bring one kilo of bee venom, which would probably be enough to kill quite a substantial amount of their population. It's very funny, the rules with bee venom.

Jeff: A serious bioweapon.

James: Yes, it is. I wouldn't say it's a bioweapon, but I'd say it is a toxin.

Kim: It sounds like, to me, just sitting here in the background listening to this, that if I was going to look into using bee venom to increase the income from my business, I'm probably not looking at doing the third step of breaking it down with an HPLC. I'm going to catch it by the gallon and send it to somebody who will break it down. I'm going to make a lot less per gallon, if you will, but my investment is almost nothing. I could see an employee or two running 20 colonies of my thousand on this, I think it's-- what did I read, you use a colony every two weeks that you can take samples.

James: Essentially, every two weeks, you can take bee venom from that same colony. Essentially, you're putting your bee venom collector in front of the hive. Two weeks later, you'll be able to harvest the venom again, any time sooner. I know there's people out there, especially there's some in South Africa, who have been harvesting every three days and it's been working out for them. There's different situations for it because climate, temperature, rain, it all factors into how often you collect from the bees.

Kim: That makes sense, but if I go on a 14-day rotation and I'm using 20 hives and I'm taking samples from each one every two weeks, I'm gathering the stuff by the court. What can I do with that? Does your company, would you take a quart jar full of the stuff that I've gathered that's now crystallized?

James: Of course. If you send us a message and we organize it, we could potentially take your bee venom, but there's many other companies out there. There's Beecure Priority Limited, there's even Merkle grows and takes bee venom. It's just a matter of contacting even biochemistry departments at universities, they're interested in bee venom research, but they can't afford to actually do it because it costs about $600 for a gram of bee venom from these companies.

There is a huge amount of opportunities for being able to sell your bee venom. Even that, it's a value add for products you have. If you're selling lip balm, which has wax, it has, let's say, an oil or something, you can add bee venom to it and it increases the price of it probably 20 times. Just look at eBay and have a look at the different bee venom products that are selling. It's just an amazing product to use.

Jeff: I can imagine the marketing slogan you could put on a tube of lip balm with bee venom in it, a stinging kiss.

Kim: a kiss of death.

Jeff: Or a kiss of death, depending on-- you know. How does the venom collection affect honey production?

James: That's a good question. There was an Iranian study that showed that there was no significant effect with bee venom collection. For our own research, we found that it slightly decreases the rate but it's not significant. What is more significant is actually using plastic hives. I know this might be controversial, but we found that the plastic hives were actually one of the biggest issues in weight distribution. We're finding our hives on average were about 20% less volume in the plastic hives. We were looking at this and we saw like, "Oh, it is about 5% to 6% difference between the wooden hives," but then we're noticing like, "Hey, hang on, how come some of our controls are so low?" It's because they were actually plastic hives and a lot of plastic hives seem to have this issue with breathability, I guess.

Jeff: When you said the volume, are you talking about the amount of venom collection or the amount of-- I lost.

James: Honey.

Jeff: Oh, honey. Yes, okay.

James: We were actually weighing it to see how heavy the actual box is. What you do is you put your double hive under the first scale and you measure how much weight it is, and then you measure it over a year or so after venom collection on the wooden hives and the plastic hives. We're noticing a substantial difference in actual weight of our controls, ones that we didn't actually harvest from, were plastic hives. I guess that might not be a popular opinion, but it's what we noticed.

Jeff: Interesting.

Kim: I'm thinking, honey at $2 a pound and venom at $600 a gram, I can put up with a little bit less honey.

James: Yes. I've always been interested also in saying I think it is essential that people do know about plastic hives and their actual substantial reduction in weight. It's something that needs to be more explored. We're happy to release a research paper on it, maybe. It's something that I think people need to explore a bit more. It's a crazy one.

Kim: Now something to look forward to.

Jeff: The last question I have on my list here for you is the amount. How many 45 minute visits of venom collection does it take to collect enough sample of venom to make it start becoming profitable? How many visits are we looking at, at that point? I guess you could even say how many hives, but how many visits?

James: How many hives? It really depends on how much you're selling your venom for. We're working out to about-- it was about six months return on investment. It's depending on the hives and depending on how many times you harvest and everything along the lines of that. We're seeing about a six months return on investment.

Obviously, you go to map it out on what you want to be doing if you want to be collecting venom full-time, or do you want to put it into your routine so when you're checking your hive over on and doing a hive inspection, maybe you can have the venom collector running in the background. I'm not sure. It takes me quite a while to actually check a hive. I'm not sure about other people, but it usually takes me about 30 minutes to do a full hive inspection. I know there's a lot of people very quick, but I'm usually finished with the venom collection by the time it's on to the next hive.

Jeff: Are there any questions that we haven't asked you about that you'd like to talk to us about Whale Labs and what you're doing and/or what you're coming out with in 2022?

James: Yes, definitely. We've come out with a few things this year. We're actually sending out some free MK1s with every two larger panel collection device. If you're interested, now's the time to probably get one because we're doing the steal until the end of January. We are hoping more people get into venom collection because we see it as a viable avenue for actually, for one, getting more people into beekeeping. Two, we see it as potentially a very useful polypeptide for the pharmaceutical industry. So far, it's incredibly difficult to recreate in a yeast setting, so it's hard to actually scale up, but if we had more beekeepers actually collecting venom, then that will actually make a huge amount of difference in the pharmaceutical industry so that it will be more of a mainstream product. Three, we do have some items, but it's probably best to talk about that on another podcast.

Jeff: That'll be good. Just one last follow-up question. Are your collection machines available in the United States, Canada, North America?

James: Yes, we offer international shipping, and it's only $20 plus. We usually put the bill for anybody who's purchased one, and we send it to everywhere. We've sent it to some weird places. I can't tell you where, but there's some places that we probably shouldn't have been able to send it to. We'll see.

Kim: To sum this up, James, Whale Labs can provide me with the machines that I need and the instructions on your webpage on how to use those machines, and how to process the venom.

James: We also provide technical support and we offer warranties on this stuff, so if you ever need to replace buyers or anything.

Kim: The market for the product that I collect. You're a one-stop shop at least to get started with. All of your information will be on the webpage, right, Jeff, their webpage and contact information, so if you're looking-- and I really, really, really want to encourage people to take a look at the books that they've done because there's a lot of good information in there. When you're done, you'll know whether you want to do this or not. In another part of my life, I might have considered it.

James: It's definitely worth considering because I understand how people think that there's a real huge adoption to it. To be honest with you, beekeeping is a lot harder than a lot of people think, and this stuff is super simple in comparison to being able to find remote queen cells underneath frames and being able to at least tell when a brood is ready and when a swarm's about to happen. Some people really misjudge that how hard it is to actually do this kind of stuff. It's very easy in comparison to beekeeping.

Kim: There you go, Jeff.

Jeff: That's my new retirement plan, venom collection.

Kim: There you go.

Jeff: Late at night in other people's hives.

Kim: Even better.

Jeff: James, it's been a great pleasure having you on the show and getting up and joining us. It's late here, it's early there in Australia, but it's been a good time. It's been well worth it.

James: Thank you very much for having me. We're happy to be here, and I like talking to you guys. You guys run a fantastic podcast.

Jeff: Well, thank you

James: It's always good to hear from you two, Jeff and Kim.

Kim: Well, I appreciate that, James, but this has been a wealth of information, and it's something that US beekeepers just don't know hardly anything about.

Jeff: James, it's been great. We look forward to having you back.

James: Yes, no problem.

Jeff: Hold on, Kim, I'm placing my order for the Australian bee venom collector from James's website. I see a new profit center for my beekeeping operation.

Kim: Let me know how that goes, Jeff. I'll have to stay inside and watch, if that's okay with you. I mentioned earlier that I've been working with people who collect bee venom for almost 40 years, certainly 35, and I go back 35 years ago and they were using a very similar device. It was an electric grid and the bees would come out, sting the grid, and it was caught in a plastic sheet.

Jeff: Yes, those are the ones I've seen.

Kim: Very often, they would die. When you left that apiary, you could smell the venom all the way back to the truck. It was so strong, it was a harsh way to do it. Just seems a lot more humane and profitable.

Jeff: I do like that fact that it's not a consumable. What's the word I'm looking for? It doesn't wipe out your colony, and your colony can go on and continue to collect honey, nectar for honey, and produce pollen if you're collecting pollen, or you can use it for pollination services. You're not dedicating one hive just for venom collection, and that's a really novel approach.

Kim: After 45 minutes, they're bored and go home.

Jeff: Well, yes, they go sleep it off somewhere, I think. One of the things he said, we didn't ask him, but he talked about the different components of bee venom, but he didn't talk about the pain-inducing component of bee venom.

Kim: Yes, and actually I took that scope.

Jeff: The adolapin?

Kim: Adolapin, I think it's the name of the component, a very small component of the venom itself, but it's the stuff that hurts.

Jeff: It's the memorable part of it.

Kim: There you go. Since when you get stung, you're opening up all of those pathways to your brain. You're going to remember how well it was--

Jeff: That's right. There's a the Darwinian approach to why that's there.

Kim: Well, this was fun. If you're looking to make some money, this might be a way to supplement some of your income and not have to work so hard and at $2 a pound for honey or $600 a gram for venom. I'm thinking there might be a future here.

Jeff: I still wouldn't recommend doing an extra in elementary school.

Kim: Got you.

Jeff: Well, that wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars in Apple Podcast or wherever you download and stream the show. Your vote helps other beekeepers find this even quicker. Even better, write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews along the top of any webpage. As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping for their continued support of Beekeeping Today Podcast.

We want to thank our regular episode's sponsor, Global Patties, check them out at www.globalpatties.com. We also want to thank Strong Microbials for their support of the podcast, check out their probiotic line at www.strongmicrobials.com, and we want to thank Betterbee for being a supporter, also check out all the great supplies at www.betterbee.com, and finally, and truly most importantly, we want to thank you, the Beekeeping Today Podcast listener, for joining us on the show. Feel free to send us questions and comments at beekeepingtodaypodcast.com. We'd love to hear from you. Anything else, Kim?

Kim: I'll bet you, everybody listening to this program today know somebody that they should share this with because that somebody is one of those people that is going to start collecting venom.

Jeff: Either intentionally or unintentionally.

Kim: There you go.

Jeff: Thanks a lot, everybody.

[00:46:51] [END OF AUDIO]

James Watts Profile Photo

James Watts

Managing Director

James is a researcher trained in biochemistry and molecular biology working on novel antibiotics for antibiotic-resistant strains, small polypeptides in dementia research, and salt-tolerant species of Trichoderma for biopesticides and biofertilizers.

James’s business focuses on building biotechnological products. One of these products is a bee venom collector which he hopes will revolutionize the beekeeping industry.