Honeycomb is a waxy, hexagonal structure built by worker honeybees to store honey and pollen, as well as to house developing larvae. The honeybees produce the wax by eating their own honey. Honeycomb has to be removed in order to harvest honey, but it is often returned to the hive to avoid unduly taxing the worker bee's efforts. Raw honeycomb is eaten, especially with bread, although the nutritional value comes almost exclusively from the honey, pollen and undeveloped larvae within the honeycomb and not from the beeswax.
A honeycomb is made up of hexagonal wax cells built by worker bees, which have to consume over 8 lbs. of honey in order to produce 1 lb. of wax, according to "The Hive and the Honey Bee" by Joe Graham. As such, beekeepers often save the waxy honeycomb after extracting the honey, although artificial honeycombs are used as well, which reduces the workload of the worker bees and allows the beekeeper to sell the honeycomb.
The main constituent of honeycomb is beeswax, which is considered to have no nutrients that can be utilized by people and therefore no caloric value. Eating lots of beeswax may not be good for your digestion as it can't be broken down in your intestines. Beeswax is commonly sold as a protective balm for skin and lips and is purported to have mild anti-inflammatory effects, according to the book "Nutrition and Wound Healing."
Honeycomb is often sold still dripping with honey. Honey is a good source of simple sugars, such as sucrose and glucose, and is easily digested for energy. Unprocessed honey also contains amino acids, digestive enzymes and some B vitamins. Honey is considered a medicinal food because it displays antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that eliminate free-radicals and discourage the growth of microorganisms respectively, according to "101 Foods That Could Save Your Life."
Bee Pollen and Larvae
Honeycomb also contains some bee pollen and parts of larvae. Bee pollen is a mixture of plant pollen, plant nectar and saliva from worker bees, which contain digestive enzymes. Bee pollen is rich in protein, fiber, fatty acids and B-vitamins, which is why it is marketed as an energy boosting supplement. Although not too appetizing to think about, honeycomb also contains small amounts of undeveloped or dead larvae, which adds to the protein content.
If you are allergic to bee stings, eating honeycomb may trigger a negative response, so you should exercise caution and consult with your physician about potential contraindications.
- "The Hive and the Honey Bee"; Joe Graham; 1992
- "Nutrition and Wound Healing"; Joseph A. Molnar; 2007
- "101 Foods That Could Save Your Life"; David Grotto R.D.; 2008