Honey bees are one of the most industrious insects on the planet. Not only do they make honey, they also make the package it comes in. Yes, I am talking about beeswax comb. But, what is this waxy substance produced by bees? Is eating beeswax a safe thing to do?
Have you ever noticed that we sometimes question activities that people have been doing for years? Maybe that is actually a good thing in some situations. But, humans have been eating beeswax comb for thousands of years with no ill effects.
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It tastes quite good – if a little waxy! While the beeswax itself has no flavor, it contains the purest, freshest honey you will ever taste. While anyone can be allergic to almost anything, it is rare that beeswax consumption should cause problems.
How Beeswax Becomes Honeycomb
What is honeycomb anyway? It is sheets of wax that each contain thousands of individual cells. The wax is produced by young adult bees from special glands. Only females “worker” bees can produce beeswax.
These soft wax scales are molded into hexagon cells. The cells become the structure of their home and is used to store food for Winter and raise baby bees.
A Traditional Form of Eating Honey
Some people prefer the taste of honey straight from the comb. Biting into a chunk of fresh honeycomb is the purest way to enjoy honey. For many years it was the only way to consume it.
There was a time in the US, when consumers wanted to purchase a whole piece of wax filled with honey-instead of liquid in jars.
Why was this method of buying honey so popular? It was because of unscrupulous businesses. Some greedy beekeepers would “stretch” the harvest by adding corn syrup.
The practice faded as rules and regulations were put into place for food sold to consumers. Sadly, the experience of buying honey by the full frame almost passed out of existence.
If you know a beekeeper, you may still be able to purchase a whole frame of fresh beeswax comb but expect to pay a premium price. The experience of having cells of fresh honey “explode” on your taste buds is worth the extra cost.
Chunk Honey is Harder to Find
It is easy to find people who have never experienced eating raw honey in a comb. This form of consumption is not as common. The major reason is a lack of availability.
Years ago almost every jar of honey sold had at least 1 piece of comb in the jar. It was often called “chunk honey“. Some beekeepers would even put 2 or 3 pieces of beeswax in there. Today, it is almost impossible to purchase multiple pieces of honeycomb in a jar.
Why Honey in Beeswax Costs More
Today, most beekeepers are able to collect the honey harvest and process it by extraction. Honey extraction does not require crushing the comb. This is a measure of economy because the beeswax can be re-used by the bees.
This is advantageous because the colony does not have to work as hard on wax production. Therefore, the bees produce more honey.
Beekeeping is not easy, especially with all of the troubles facing bees. Beekeepers struggle to find a way to make a profit. They can make more money from sales without wax comb.
When you find jars of honey with comb, they are usually small jars. These are great for gifts or special occasions. But are not large enough for family use beyond a special treat.
Another factor in the availability of comb honey is the value of beeswax itself. Beekeepers sell excess wax and it often brings more per pound than the honey. There are many ways to use beeswax and it is always in demand.
Who Should Not Consume Beeswax
Raw beeswax is a sweet nutritious treat but not every one should consume it. As with raw honey or any raw food product, infants under the age of 1 should not eat raw beeswax.
Individuals with compromised immune systems should also forgo this treat. And of course, those with specific allergies may find beeswax consumption inadvisable.
But, most of the population should not see any bad effect from eating beeswax. If you have any questions, always consult your doctor first.
Is Beeswax a Healthy Food?
Well, now we are getting into that grey area. The answer to this question depends on who you ask. Some studies show consuming raw honey in the comb promotes good heart health.
In addition to soothing sore throats, honey has an anti-inflammatory properties. Manuka Honey is praised by the honey industry for having above average healing properties.
Some researchers claim that the long chain fatty acids, long chain alcohols (esters) can provide health benefits. Still more honey lovers swear that honey with comb (or without) helps with allergies.
Whether it has special medicinal properties or not – I can tell you that eating fresh beeswax comb is good for my soul! This is because it is an absolute delight.
In fact, my Daddy always said that honeycomb was “the poor man’s chewing gum.” As a child, they would chew pieces of beeswax. Once all of the honey was gone, they would swallow the wax.
Most studies report beeswax alone to have very little nutritional value. But you will be getting the nutritional value of the honey, pollen etc. in the wax cells.
The jury is still out on this one. Eating it may be healthy, or not, but reasonable amounts wont hurt you either.
Eating a fresh piece of beeswax is a special experience. If you have never tried it, I encourage you to find some as soon as possible. Unless you adhere to a strict vegan lifestyle, adding honey to your diet is a good idea.
Enjoy slices of honey comb on warm toast or English Muffins or straight off the spoon. And that’s just the beginning, there are many other interesting ways to enjoy eating honeycomb. You may come to learn that it is one of life’s little pleasures.
Also, beeswax can be safely used in so many applications. You can make some natural beeswax crayons for the young folks in your life. Use it in these easy soap recipes or even make your own leather polish.
FAQs about Eating Beeswax
When you enjoy a sweet piece of fresh honeycomb, you are eating more than just beeswax. You are consuming honey, traces of pollen, propolis and other natural substances.
Everything in moderation is a good guideline for those of you who love to eat beeswax. Too much of anything is not usually good for you.
It would be possible to “over-do-it” with wax consumption. Eating mass quantities of it over a short period of time can lead to gastrointestinal issues. You do not want to gorge on it. But, you would not normally consume enough beeswax for that to be a major concern.
You can find pieces of raw beeswax filled with honey in natural food stores. You can even order it online . Perhaps you have a beekeeper in your town or city?
Do NOT put your comb in the refrigerator. This is not necessary and will actually cause the comb to be sticky and brittle.
In fact, the refrigerator is the worse place to store any honey. Surprisingly, you can freeze honey. If you have several pieces of honeycomb to save for later, wrap tightly with plastic wrap to protect from moisture.
When you are ready to enjoy, remove a piece from the freezer, thaw and enjoy. Please don’t put your honey in the microwave – that’s criminal – or should be.