- Honeybees build honeycombs (hexagonal cells) to store their honey and to brood their young.
- Honeycomb can be used as a sweetener, a topping, or even as a chewing gum alternative.
- Honeycomb offers many benefits, including supporting general wellness, immune function, and digestion.
Everything to Know About Honeycomb
A honeycomb is both an architectural wonder and a vessel for precious raw honey. You might already know that raw honey is a rare and delicious treat and that it contains beneficial nutrients, but what about honeycomb? Can you eat that, too?
In this article, we dive into what honeycomb is and its many uses and benefits.
What Exactly Is Honeycomb?
Bees make honeycombs to store and cure honey, as well as to raise their young. The honeycombs are constructed out of beeswax and are made up of hexagonal cells.
Each honey cell is filled with nectar brought by foraging bees. Bees then use their wings to create a warm breeze that cures and dries the nectar to turn it into raw honey. Finally, the bees cap the honey cell off with a thin layer of beeswax for protection.
When they need to access the honey, they simply remove the cap. You can think of a honeycomb as a bee pantry filled with thousands of tiny honey jars (aka the individual honeycomb cells).
Besides raw honey, the comb may also contain small amounts of other bee-produced substances like propolis, royal jelly, and bee pollen. Honeybees also use honeycombs to brood or raise their young. The queen bee lays eggs in a comb called the brood comb.
For our purposes today, we’ll focus on honeycomb used for curing and storing raw honey.
Can You Eat Honeycomb?
Yes, you can absolutely eat honeycomb, and it’s a delicious treat. All parts of the honeycomb are edible, including the beeswax that makes up the comb, as well as the main event: the sweet, raw honey inside.
Honeycomb has a unique flavor and texture; some even consider it more flavorful than the honey itself. Because of the inclusion of beeswax, honeycomb has a thick, textured consistency.
Additionally, beeswax is very chewy, like old-fashioned wax candy. This isn’t for everybody, especially for those not used to the texture, but for honeycomb fans, the waxy texture is one of the draws.
Raw Honey vs. Regular Honey
So, what’s the difference between raw honey and regular honey, and how does that affect the honeycomb? Let’s discuss each and cover their similarities and differences.
“Regular” honey is pasteurized by being heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and then rapidly cooled. This is to maintain a uniform texture and color, and to prevent fermentation and hardening (also called granulation or crystallization), ultimately improving the honey’s marketable shelf life.
However, honey is extremely sensitive to heat. The pasteurization process unfortunately reduces the potency of some of its beneficial nutrients.
Raw honey, on the other hand, is left unpasteurized. It’s typically only filtered or strained, then immediately bottled, leaving those beneficial nutrients, including prebiotics and enzymes, intact.
So, what does this have to do with honeycomb? Well, with honeycomb, the filtering process is completely skipped.
Honey still in its honeycomb is raw, unfiltered honey.
It’s actually not really possible to pasteurize honeycomb because the wax will melt, and you ultimately won’t have a honeycomb leftover if you did try to pasteurize it!
Is Raw Honey Safe?
The word “unpasteurized” might immediately bring up safety concerns. But raw honey is safe to consume (though it’s not recommended for those who are pregnant or for infants under one year).
It’s not like unpasteurized milk or juice; consuming raw honey doesn’t generally pose health risks because honey in and of itself isn’t a great environment for bacteria to grow. It’s got minimal moisture content (if it’s been dehydrated fully), and it’s acidic — two criteria that keep bacteria and mold far away.
If you take an ethical approach to beekeeping that respects the bees and their process, there’s really no reason honey should be pasteurized at all.
In addition to pasteurization, many honey manufacturers use other harmful processing techniques to produce their honey. For example, they may prematurely harvest the honey from the hive before the bees can dehydrate it properly.
This may speed up the overall production of honey, but it requires dehydrating the honey manually. While this level of processing can diminish the nutrients within honey, it can also leave the bees without enough honey to last the winter, which usually results in them being fed sugar water to sustain them.
At Manukora, our beekeepers always leave more than enough honey in the hive to feed the bees, and they allow the bees to finish their natural honey process. We let them dehydrate the honey as nature intended, and only harvest it when the comb has been capped and we know it’s reached its final form.
There’s no need for heat or overprocessing. That’s just one reason why our Manuka honey is so rich, creamy, and delicious.
What Are Some Uses for Honeycomb?
If you’re ready to get some honeycomb of your own but aren’t quite sure what you’d use it for beyond that first exploratory bite, here are a few ideas.
Sweetener: Honeycomb can be used as a natural sweetener, whether you put it in your tea or use it as an ingredient in homemade desserts. You can use honeycomb in waffle or pancake mix to add texture and sweetness.
Topping: There’s very little that’s more indulgent than a honeycomb or raw honey topping on your favorite food. Honeycomb can be used to top pancakes, toast, English muffins, sandwiches, oatmeal, crackers, yogurt, and so much more. The sky’s the limit, so use your imagination the next time you want to utilize honeycomb.
By the Spoonful: Maybe we’re a little biased, but we think a spoonful of high-quality raw honey or honeycomb is a divine treat all on its own. Enjoy anytime you need a small-but-mighty treat or a kickstart to your morning routine.
As “Chewing Gum”: Remember how we mentioned honeycomb’s unique, chewy texture? Some people use honeycomb as natural chewing gum. It has a similar consistency to wax candy; you can chew it and spit it out — or swallow it for the benefits it has in your digestive tract. While it may not have the minty flavor to freshen your breath, it can help keep you focused the way chewing gum can.
Charcuterie: When it’s time to make a well-curated charcuterie board, a gorgeous piece of honeycomb is guaranteed to elevate your hors d'oeuvres. Pair it with your favorite cheeses, nuts, cured meats, bread, fruits, and more. Honeycomb also pairs well with spicy pepper jelly as a cracker topping.
Raw Honey and Honeycomb Benefits
As we mentioned, raw honey and honeycomb have loads of beneficial nutrients that support health and wellness. So, let’s take a look at some common of these benefits.
General Health and Wellness
Raw honey and honeycomb contain nutrients that can support overall health and wellness. These nutrients have several benefits, including:
- Promoting general, whole-body health and well-being.
- Promoting feelings of energy thanks to its naturally high carbohydrate content
We’re not saying raw honey is all you’ll ever need, but we are saying it’s a powerful ally for your well-being.
Did you know raw honey can support your natural immune response? It’s packed with bioactive nutrients that can help maintain a healthy immune system.
Your immune system is heavily responsible for protecting your body from illness-causing invaders, and raw honey and honeycomb can give it some natural support to do its job.
Raw honey contains prebiotics that can support overall gut and digestive health. Prebiotics aid good bacteria in the intestines, helping you feel good day in and day out.
Honeycomb is a natural byproduct of bees, consisting of beeswax and raw honey. It’s generally completely safe to eat with a few minor exceptions — it is not recommended for consumption if you are pregnant or under one year old.
Thanks to the beneficial nutrients in raw honey, eating delicious honeycomb isn’t just delicious, but can also help you obtain the energy you need to take on the day!
To learn more about all things bees and honey, explore the rest of Manukora’s blog here!
What makes honeycomb different from just consuming raw honey?
While raw honey is the liquid sweet substance, honeycomb includes the beeswax structure that holds the honey. Eating honeycomb provides a unique texture and offers benefits from both the nutrients in the beeswax and the raw honey.
Is there any difference in health benefits between honeycomb and liquid honey?
Honeycomb contains both the benefits of raw honey as well as beeswax. This combination can offer additional health and digestive benefits compared to consuming liquid honey alone.
How should I store my honeycomb to maintain its freshness?
Honeycomb, like raw honey, should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Ensuring it's in an airtight container can help maintain its freshness for longer.