Science Behind Honeycomb
Honeycomb is a natural wonder that benefits both bees and humans. To understand its potential, we must start with the foundational questions:
- What is honeycomb?
- How is it harvested?
- What’s the difference between domestic and international honey?
(And, most importantly, learn which one is better.)
In this guide, we’ll dive into these answers and beyond. After all, the comb is the original source of honey that we stir into our tea, add to yogurt and can get health benefits from. Ready to see how wondrous honey really is and the breathtaking science and architecture that create it?
Let’s Define Honeycomb
Honeycomb is the trademark of the bee. Within each hive is the honeycomb that serves many purposes to bees. It’s:
- Home to the bees
- The place they work
- Storage units for the honey
- Their “winter cluster”. In cold months, when it gets too chilly to venture out to find nectar and pollen, the honeycomb is stocked up on the honey they can eat and fuel up from.
The honeycomb is comprised of two main parts. There is the wax that forms the “hard part” and main structure. Then, there is the honey and nectar that gets stored by the comb.
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 a lot of energy for bees to create wax. In fact, bees take in eight ounces of honey for every ounce of comb-building wax. Because it takes so much labor and energy to create the comb, the bees have learned to do it in the most efficient way possible. It’s why the cells are hexagons.
This 6-sided shape is very 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, like 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 it with her frontmost legs. Her next step is to mix her own saliva in with the wax from her abdomen. When this mixture is laid down over and over and over, it slowly builds the honeycomb.
To create the honey itself, that’s a whole other process.
From Ingredients to Honey
A bee goes out and about in flower fields comes back to the hive. Through a buzzing process, that marvelous nectar gets placed and fanned. As the nectar’s water level is reduced, nectar becomes honey. Then, to ensure the honey is sealed and superb for later, it’s capped like a water bottle. If the flower-flirting bee found pollen, it’ll bring that back and get it stored into the hive, as well!
How is it harvested?
The precise method of harvesting depends on if the beekeeper uses sustainable beekeeping methods.
In general, a comb is taken out of the hive. Ensuring no bees are still in that comb, it can be then be removed and taken away. Then, the next step is to uncap the honey. This is because, as discussed above, the bees seal the honey within caps that must be unleashed.
If the goal is to get liquified honey, the comb then goes through a manufacturing process. Otherwise, one gets ready to enjoy the comb. After all, there are so many ways to eat honeycomb.
Considering domestic vs. international honey
In many parts of the world, the United States included, honey has become incredibly popular. The problem is that when people are crying out for more honey, the bees in that local area may not have enough to provide for themselves and humans alike.
When honey is sourced from a variety of places and countries, in contrast, it gives ample opportunity to source honey from places where there is plenty to go around.
Not only that, honey from outside of the US may be more organic.
In the United States, fertilizers and pesticides are very common. A beekeeper may not use them on their own property, but their bees fly near and far to commune with nature, nuzzle flowers and gather nectar. The bees can likely come into contact with pesticides and chemicals in other fields and lands.
However, many countries with more open farmland use far less or no pesticides. Even if the bees fly farther from the hive, they’ll still be keeping it raw and clean. As one 2016 study shares, high volumes of pesticides across the US and North America have been linked to higher bee deaths. If it’s killing the bees, how may it affect people?
When sourcing from areas that use fewer chemicals, it can be a route that’s healthier for both you and the bees.
Ready to Try Nutritious, Wholesome Honeycomb for Yourself?
All this reading about honey has you craving the healthiest version of this sweet treat.
To explore options, peruse glorious, global honeycomb here.