Can bees eat honey from another beehive?

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More and more often you can discover whole honeycombs in honey jars. But what is really behind the trend? Can you just eat the honey with the wax? And how is honeycomb honey different from conventional honey?

Status: November 13, 2019

Honeycomb honey is honey that is sold and eaten with the honeycomb. The beekeeper does not fling the honey and thus separate liquid honey and honeycombs from one another, but leaves the honey in the honeycombs. Honeycomb honey can be found more and more frequently on the shelves of organic and delicatessen stores. There it is often called Sliced ​​honey because the honeycombs are thinly sliced. According to the Honey Ordinance, the terms can be used as synonyms.

According to the Honey Ordinance, honeycomb honey is "honey stored by bees in the capped, brood-free cells of the honeycombs they have freshly built or in honeycombs made of fine waffled wax sheets made exclusively from beeswax, which is traded in whole or divided honeycombs". But what does it exactly mean?

Honeycomb honey is pure, natural honey.

The difference between honeycomb honey and centrifuged honey begins in the beehive. Each individual honeycomb consists of many individual honeycomb cells that stick together. The bees themselves produce the wax for the honeycombs. From the wax of the wax gland on your abdomen, wafer-thin wax platelets are created. The bees knead these with their mouthparts and then build them into hexagonal cells. At the beginning, the walls of the honeycomb are very thin, whitish to transparent. The older the honeycomb, the darker it becomes. The bees that go in and out of the honeycomb bring honey, pollen or brood into the cells. This is how fat-loving particles are deposited that remain attached to the wax, explains Prof. Dr. Werner von der Ohe from the LAVES Institute for Apiculture in Celle. "If possible, honeycombs for honeycomb should come from a maiden building and only hang in the beehive for a short time, so that the bright character of the honeycomb remains," says von der Ohe.

When the beekeeper wants to harvest honey in a jar, he always checks the degree of ripeness of the honey. This is derived from the water content in the honey, because water and sugar determine the consistency and shelf life of the honey. Immature honey has a high water content. The longer the honey stays in the beehive, the less water there is in the honey. According to the German Honey Ordinance, honey must not contain more than 20 percent water. The German Beekeeping Association even sets the limit at 18 percent. As soon as the honey has reached its value, it is flung.

With honeycomb honey, it is not the beekeeper who decides when the honey is ripe, but the bees themselves. They seal the honeycomb cells with a thin layer of wax. This process is also referred to as "covering up". Because the bees have closed the ripe honey themselves, you can be absolutely sure that the honeycomb honey has not been mixed with other types of honey. Honeycomb honey is a pure, natural honey that has a very intense and aromatic taste.

Beekeepers use so-called foundation walls for honey that is thrown out. These consist of old beeswax that has been melted down and re-poured into the hexagonal nut. These middle walls form the foundation for the honey bee. There she grows and starts collecting honey. The advantage of the middle walls is that they are very stable and so do not break when spinning.

You can simply eat the very fresh and light honeycombs.

For honeycomb honey, however, the beekeeper needs very fresh and light honeycombs. You can only get these honeycombs without dividing walls. In principle, according to the Honey Ordinance, the use of middle walls in the production of honeycomb honey has been permitted since 2001, but that makes no sense, because only without a middle wall is the proportion of wax in the honey low and the honeycomb walls extremely thin, explains Prof. Dr. Werner von der Ohe. With honeycomb honey, the bees should build everything completely by themselves and from scratch. The beekeeper takes the fresh honeycomb cells from the hive, cuts them up and offers them for sale. Since the honeycombs are very sticky and fragile, they usually float directly in the honey jar.

In addition to honey, there is also pollen in honeycomb honey. These refine the taste of the honey. Most of the time, the fresh honeycomb honey is cut into very thin slices and eaten as directly as liquid honey on bread. When the honeycomb honey is very fresh, the wax is so thin that it can simply be eaten and is not perceived as annoying. Eating untreated wax is completely safe. The wax even contains valuable enzymes and ferments that are released by chewing. In addition, the honeycombs also contain propolis, a fine resin with antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal properties. Some honey lovers swear by simply chewing the honeycomb like chewing gum. However, this is not for everyone, because the wax remains on the teeth.