Propolis is a material manufactured by bees and contains beeswax, bee salivary secretions and plant resins. Propolis preparations have been used for millennia by humans in food, cosmetics and medicines due to its antibacterial effects. Within the hive, propolis plays an important role in bees' health, with much of its bioactivity largely dependent on the plant resins the bees select for its production. Few chemical studies are available on the chemistry of propolis produced by Australian honeybees (Apis mellifera, Apidae). This study aimed to determine the chemical composition as well as in vitro antimicrobial effects of propolis harvested from honeybees in subtropical eastern Australia. Honeybee propolis was produced using plastic frames and multiple beehives in two subtropical sites in eastern Australia. Methanolic extracts of propolis were analysed by liquid chromatography with ultraviolet detection and high-resolution mass spectrometry (ultra-high-pressure liquid chromatography (UHPLC)-UV-high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry (HR-MS/MS)) and by gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS). The resulting chemical data were dereplicated for compound characterisation. The two crude extracts in abs. ethanol were tested in vitro by the agar diffusion and broth dilution methods, using a phenol standard solution as the positive control and abs. ethanol as the negative control. Chemical constituents were identified to be pentacyclic triterpenoids and C-prenylated flavonoids, including Abyssinoflavanone VII, Propolin C and Nymphaeol C. The two propolis crude extracts showed bactericidal effects at the minimal inhibitory concentrations of 0.37-2.04 mg mL(-1) against Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 25923. However, the extracts were inactive against Klebsiella pneumoniae ATCC 13883 and Candida albicans ATCC 10231. The antistaphylococcal potential of propolis was discussed, also in relation to honeybees' health, as it warrants further investigations on the social and individual immunities of Australian honeybees.
Keywords: Candida albicans; Geranyl flavonoids; Klebsiella pneumoniae; Mass spectrometry; Staphylococcus aureus; Triterpenoids.