Bee venom is like gold for an Island beekeeper.
Apotoxin, the substance that causes a bee sting to swell is the latest thing in anti-aging creams.
It's more valuable, gram-forgram than gold, and is said to be as effective as botox for erasing wrinkles and lines.
Parksville entrepreneurs Alex Fras and Kelly Forrest developed a proprietary system to produce a superior product, fetching a higher price.
The product should not to be used by anyone with an allergy to bee stings.
Their company, Bee U Organics, sells their product online around the world, for the princely sum of $400 a gram.
"It's 10 times more valuable than gold," said Fras.
Apotoxin is extracted then put with other ingredients to make a facial cream. A jar of the cream sells online for $89. Adherents say they feel their facial skin tightening when they apply a mask, and this reduces the aging effects of lines and wrinkles.
"When you have a sting from a bee, you have a little red mark, which is the rush of blood. What we're trying to achieve is you're tricking your skin into thinking it's been stung. You feel a slight tingling and a rush of blood and your face gets a little red."
Reactions vary from one person to another, but the result is a plumping of the skin, which
users swear erases wrinkles.
"A lot of people are calling it nature's botox," Fras said.
He started beekeeping as a hobby. His company formed in 2006 but was "dormant" the first few years.
Two years ago the bee venom craze took off in Europe.
The partners developed a unique extraction technique, in which the use electricity to harmlessly stimulate the female bees to release venom from their stingers onto a glass plate. The venom is collected up, then the refined, pure toxin is extracted.
It takes one year to produce a single gram of the toxin from an entire hive.
By last fall they had enough toxin to start selling it. It's proving to be a hit with buyers. "Ours is pure white. Most other people have more of a yellowish or brown venom that contains more impurities."
That purity is driving demand. Recent orders have come in from such places as Dubai, Malaysia and Cyprus.
The Parksville product has even been cited by celebrities as a beauty product that works.
They sell their product directly from beeuorganics.com.
For Bee U Organics, the sky is the limit.
"I see a lot of growth," Fras said. "We believe the product works, and that's important."
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