Why is Honeycomb More Expensive than Liquid Honey?

02 Oct 2019

Would you travel 55,000 miles to sweeten your tea, your oatmeal, your morning toast? No? Well, thankfully you don’t have to. Honeybees have done the traveling and the labor for you.

That’s right—a single beehive contains approximately 60,000 bees who travel close to 55,000 miles and visit over 2 million flowers just to make one pound of honey for you! 

But what about honeycomb? When you think of honeycomb, perhaps a fancy charcuterie board springs to mind: a luxurious piece of golden honeycomb surrounded by exotic cheeses, nuts, fruits, and artisan breads (with a hefty price tag to match). Is honeycomb worth the price, you may ask?

Let’s look at raw honeycomb price and explain why it’s more expensive than liquid honey.

Some Health Background

Unless you’re a beekeeper by trade or by hobby, you probably haven’t thought much about honeycomb beyond the decadent feeling each time you encounter this natural treat. Honeycomb is simply made up of three elements packed with endless health benefits:

  • The honey – contains 22 amino acids, 31 minerals, and 30 types of antioxidants
  • The beeswax – contains fiber, essential fatty acids, and vitamin A
  • The royal jelly – superfood containing over 250 nutrient-dense substances, including vitamins, amino acids, micronutrients and antioxidants

Because of the array of plants visited by each hive, certain types of honeycomb have as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables. 

Liquid honey—often strained and pasteurized to produce a more uniform, shelf-stable product—unfortunately loses these vital nutrients in the process pasteurization process. Destroying all of the natural yeasts, antioxidants, enzymes, and pollen robs you of all the health benefits of raw honey. As studies have shown, raw honey contains 4.3 times more antioxidants than the pasteurized variety.

The Price of Authenticity

Now that we know the background and complexities of honeycomb, it’s time to look at the value proposition or honeycomb price. Why is honeycomb so much more expensive than liquid honey per se? Let’s go back to where it all starts: the hive. 

Part of the reason a worker bee can make such a small amount of honey in its lifetime is that they only spend the last 2 weeks of their life actually making honey. The beginning and most energetic weeks of their lives are spent building the honeycomb in which to live, reproduce, and store the honey.

Reuse, Recycle, Make More Honey

If the beekeeper is relying on honey-production for his living, he will get larger crops of honey each season by reusing his existing honeycomb. When bees can populate a premade home, then they can spend most of their lives making honey instead of building the comb.

Less bee-homemaking equals more honey and more profits. 

Sell the Comb, Start Over, but Make it Worth the Effort

Those beekeepers who realize the intrinsic wholeness, the richness of flavor, and the health properties of selling their honeycomb must sell it at a price to allow them (and the bees) time to start over.

You see, a good beekeeper knows that he should never harvest honey (or the comb) the first year it is made. The hive needs to be allowed to use its own honey for the queen to grow strong and reproduce, ensuring a robust hive and crop the following season.


Waste Management

Harvesting the honeycomb is easier than harvesting just the honey, right? Wrong. Even though an outsider would think the equipment and time needed for honey extraction is more expensive than selling pure honeycomb, beekeepers know that is never the case.

  • Hand-harvesting the comb is a painstaking process involving waste from damaged combs, imperfect combs, and combs with unhatched larvae.
  • Packaging and storing harvested combs is difficult due to the fragile nature of honeycomb, whereas the liquid honey itself is remarkably robust.
  • Honeycomb creation is more time-consuming when not using a premade wax and wire mesh foundation and yields less honey per season.

The Whole Ball of Wax

Beeswax is a valuable and in-demand substance. Most beekeepers find it more profitable to sell the liquid honey and beeswax separately than to sell the whole honeycomb. Thanks to the organic movement (and the growing beard-trend in men), beeswax is in demand like never before. 

The more labels you read, the more apt you are to see beeswax listed in these items:

  • Cleaning products
  • Grooming products (from beard wax to anti-frizz serums)
  • Candles (significantly healthier than paraffin or soy)
  • All-natural food glazes

Unless the consumer can understand the value in natural honeycomb (and be willing to pay for it), beekeepers find themselves dancing to the Pied Piper of larger profits from their wax than from their honeycomb.

How Sweet it Is

In this day of convenience, of bargain shopping and quick fixes, we have lost sight of assigning intrinsic value to things worth the price and worth the wait. The real treat in honeycomb is the raw nutrition left behind in the crevasses, the authentic floral essence that extracted liquid honey does not retain, and yes—especially the time and the effort of thousands of bees working their lifelong artistry. 

Don’t let the higher price of honeycomb deter you from one of nature’s sweetest treats! After all, when it comes to honey—like most things in life—you certainly get what you pay for.


Sources:

National Honey Board. About Honey. https://www.honey.com/about-honey

Pass the Honey. Box of Convenient, Single-Serve Honeycomb. https://passthehoney.com/products/honey-packets-box-of-seven

Pass the Honey. Health Benefits of Honeycomb. https://passthehoney.com/pages/health-benefits-of-honeycomb

Healthline. All About Raw Honey: How Is It Different Than Regular Honey

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/raw-honey-vs-regular

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