Honeycomb Harvest Q&A
Its been an incredibly busy few weeks with one of my favorite jobs of the year, harvesting honeycomb! I’m so fascinated by the work that these little insects do and get so much pleasure from the fruits of their labor. Our bees got a late start this spring due to those bomb cyclones, but they've pulled through and done an incredible job producing the most beautiful comb! Cracking open the lid to these hive boxes each fall is more exciting to me than opening presents as a kid on Christmas morning!
Q: What is honeycomb made out of?
In the early spring, the bees get started making fresh frames of comb. They form a chain of bees from the top of the frame to the bottom, linking legs all the way down. The bees at the top secrete a bit of wax and pass it down the chain, each one doing its duty to form the wax into perfect hexagons, connecting them all to form the structure of the comb.
Q: Why do bees make honeycomb?
A: To raise baby bees, and to make/store honey.
Some of those hexagonal cells are used for brood (baby bee) rearing. The bees lay an egg inside the cell, and fill the rest of the cell with royal jelly to feed that egg as it turns into a larva and eventually emerges as a worker bee. That cell is then filled up with honey. These brood-rearing sections of comb end up quite dark in color, as they tend to gather more propolis, a compound produced by bees that is thought to be anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory. The dark brood comb also tends to have a firmer texture and a richer, deeper, earthier flavor (in my opinion).
The sections of comb that are not used for brood are used just to collect nectar. Bees can fly up to 2 miles away to collect flower nectar. This nectar has a very high water content. The cells of comb are filled to the brim with nectar, and then the bees fan this nectar with their wings, causing the water to evaporate out. When the water content reaches 18-percent or lower, the remaining concentrated nectar is officially honey! At that point, the bees use more wax to cap off each cell of honey, preserving the honey safely inside. Voila - honeycomb!
Q: How do you harvest honeycomb without getting stung?
A: Very very calmly:)
Before doing anything else with our bees, our first step is to arrive with a calm demeanor (they can definitely sense anxiety). Next, we craft up some calming smoke to chill them out. We don’t want them getting aggravated while we’re harvesting comb from the hives. For our harvest this year, we used a bespoke combo of dried grapefruit peels and pine needles. While you really can’t taste those flavors in the honey (it’s already safely preserved and capped with beeswax by the bees at this point), you can taste a wide array of other flavors! Floral, grassy, citrus, bright, earthy... and of course sweet.
Q: What is Certified Naturally Grown Honey and why should I seek it out for my family?
A: This is the cleanest and most unadulterated form of local honey you can buy
Here's a dirty little secret for you... Did you know that most beehives are heavily treated with nasty substances we don't want in our food supply, such as:
-Roach Bait (Hydramethylnon)
-Moth Balls (Naphthalene)
-Corn Syrup and more
Our hives are amongst the first Certified Naturally Grown apiaries in the state of Colorado. This means that we will only ever use approved natural substances inside our hives such as:
-Apple Cider Vinegar
-Essential oils (eucalyptus, menthol, camphor)
-Thymol (from thyme essential oil)
-Oxalic Acid (an organic compound present in honey)
Q: Why do you have such a limited supply of honeycomb?
A: While our hives are chock full of comb, we never harvest the entire hive, instead choosing to leave a hefty 90 lbs in each hive for the bees to feed on over the winter months (rather than giving them corn syrup - which sadly is a widely spread practice).
Q: What do you do to process/pasteurize the honeycomb?
A: Literally nothing
Once we harvest the honeycomb from our hives, we do nothing more to it, other than cut into pieces and place in boxes for you. You will be getting a little piece of our hives in your home:)
Q: Can I eat honeycomb?
A: Why yes, you can! Not only can you, but you absolutely should! This is the purest and most undiluted form of honey that exists. It simply came straight out of our hives. Honeycomb is full of nature's bounty including propolis and royal jelly from the bees.
*Raw honey should never be given to babies under the age of 1
Q: How do I eat honeycomb?
A: We like to take a chunk and chew it like gum. You suck the honey out of those sweet and juicy cells for a natural energy boost, and the remaining wax is quite chewy. After all of the honey is gone you can either spit the wax out or swallow the wax if you like. We LOVE honeycomb on top of biscuits (or fresh pumpkin bread), with a little butter, placed under the broiler until the comb softens just a tad. Its also delicious cut into small pieces and served on top of a fall harvest salad, and very beautiful as the centerpiece of a savory charcuterie board. I wouldn't recommend trying to melt it into tea, however.