Royal jelly is a honey bee secretion that is used in the nutrition of larvae, as well as adult queens. It is secreted from the glands in the hypopharynx of worker bees, and fed to all larvae in the colony.
When worker bees decide to make a new queen, either because the old one is weakening, or was killed, they choose several small larvae and feed them with copious amounts of royal jelly in specially constructed queen cells. This type of feeding triggers the development of queen morphology, including the fully developed ovaries needed to lay eggs.
Royal jelly is collected and sold as a dietary supplement, claiming various health benefits because of components like B-complex vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). The overall composition of royal jelly is 67% water, 12.5% crude protein (including small amounts of many different amino acids), and 11% simple sugars (monosaccharides), also including a relatively high amount (5%) of fatty acids. It also contains many trace minerals, some enzymes, antibacterial and antibiotic components, and trace amounts of vitamin C. The fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K, are completely absent from royal jelly.