Science Behind Honeycomb
Honeycomb is a natural wonder that benefits both bees and humans.
To understand its potential, we’ll start with some basic questions:
- What is honeycomb?
- How is it harvested?
- What’s the difference between domestic and international honey?
- And, most importantly, why should you eat it?
In this guide, we’ll dive into these answers and beyond. After all, the comb is the original, unaltered honey source that you can stir into your tea, add to yogurt and can get health benefits from. Learn how wondrous honey really is and discover the science, insects, and architecture that creates it.
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What Is Honeycomb?
Honeycomb is a repeating cluster of hexagonal beeswax created by bees to store honey. This six-sided structure fills the interior of beehives, providing a home to bees, protection from the elements and predators and a container to house honey that fuels the bees throughout the winter months. Honeycomb is comprised of two main parts: Wax that forms the rigid main structure, and the honey that gets stored.
Totally Your Beeswax
It’s bees who create the comb, but the making of it is still some of your beeswax. Because when we understand how it is made, we can truly appreciate honey and the importance of sustainable beekeeping practices.
It takes an incredible amount of energy for bees to create wax. In fact, bees consume eight ounces of honey for every ounce of comb-building wax. Because it takes so much labor and energy to make the comb, bees have learned to do it in the most efficient way possible. This is why honeycomb’s cells are hexagons.
This six-sided shape is intentional.
According to research, bees use the hexagonal design for individual cells because this shape stores the most honey with the least amount of wax. Other shapes, such as a circle, would leave bigger gaps between cells and use too much wax.
To create the shape, each worker bee releases the wax from their wax glands. As she (yes, worker bees are girls!) gathers it up, she then grips the wax with her frontmost legs. Her next step is to mix her own saliva in with the wax from her abdomen. When this mixture is repeatedly laid down, the honeycomb is slowly built.
To create the honey itself, that’s a whole other process.
From Ingredients to Honey
Every day, bees venture into flower fields to collect nectar and return to the hive. Through a complicated process, the nectar mixes with enzymes inside the bees stomach. As the nectar’s water level is reduced, it thickens and turns into honey. Then, to ensure the honey is protected for later, it’s capped with more wax. If the flower-flirting bee finds pollen, it’ll bring that back and store it in the hive, as well!
How Is Honeycomb Harvested?
All of our beekeeper partners harvest honeycomb as responsibly as possible, which means adhering to environmental practices and protecting their bees. Beekeepers first ensure that no bees are still in the comb. Then, it’s removed and uncapped to release the honey inside.
Our process ends here to allow you to enjoy the honey-filled honeycomb in all of its glory. However, if the goal is to get liquified honey, the comb then goes through a manufacturing process that involves pressing and filtering the honey into a syrupy liquid. After all, there are so many ways to eat honeycomb.
Considering Domestic vs. International Honey
Honey is popular worldwide. But when harvested unsustainably, bee populations in local areas are stressed to provide enough honey for themselves and their local community. In contrast, when honey is sourced from a variety of places and countries, it offers ample opportunity to source honey from places where there is plenty to go around.
Not only that, honey from outside of the U.S. may have a higher likelihood of being free from pesticides.
In the United States, fertilizers and pesticides are very common. A beekeeper may not use them on their own property, but their bees fly both near and far to gather nectar. The bees, therefore, can likely come into contact with pesticides and other agricultural chemicals in neighboring fields and lands.
However, countries, like Turkey, with more open farmland use far fewer, or zero, pesticides. Even if the bees fly farther from the hive, they’ll still be buzzing over land free from pesticides and fertilizers. As one 2016 study shares, high volumes of pesticides across the U.S. and North America have been linked to higher bee deaths. If it’s killing the bees, how may it affect you?
When sourcing honeycomb from areas that use fewer chemicals, it can be a route that’s healthier for both you and the bees.
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