We’re often asked questions about our heather honeycomb like how honeycomb is made, if honeycomb is edible and recommendations on how to eat honeycomb...
In this blog we’ll explore all of your questions about heather honeycomb. Heather honeycomb has an amber red colour that glistens through the comb and is oozing with delicious heather honey. It’s mesmerising to look at and cut into as it holds the hexagon shape of the hive. Surprising to most people, fresh honeycomb is edible. It’s actually the traditional way to eat honey!
Can you eat honeycomb?
Firstly, let’s clarify the common query of ‘is honeycomb edible?’. Due to the waxy top layer, people often question whether honeycomb is edible. The answer is yes, you can eat the whole honeycomb. The waxy hexagon container is the purest form of raw honey as it’s the natural state you will find honey in a beehive.
Can you eat wax from honeycomb?
Honeycomb can often have a chewy consistency and more texture than filtered, pure honey. This comes from the waxy layer that surrounds the honeycomb. The wax from the honeycomb can be chewed like gum or spit it out. It is all safe to eat!
Is honeycomb wax good for you?
As we all know, heather honey has magnificent, natural healing properties. If you missed this research around our heather honey, check out our blog here. As raw honey and beeswax are the two ingredients that make honeycomb, it contains the rich healing properties from the honey, while carrying the long-chain fatty acids from the beeswax. Research shows that the long-chain fatty acids found in beeswax has the potential to lower high blood cholesterol levels, a risk associated with heart disease. Honeycomb and the wax surrounding is not only delicious, but also beneficial for your health!
Infants under 12 months are yet to develop the bacteria that protects them from spores found in honey that cause botulism. Read more about infant botulism here.
How does honeycomb taste?
Honeycomb taste varies depending on the type of plants the honeybees pollinate. Our heather honeycomb is produced from the bees pollinating the heather covered hills. It has a rich taste with bursts of sweetness from the honey oozing through.
How long does honeycomb last?
Honeycomb can last for years. It is simply pure honey inside beeswax cells, which means it generally doesn’t expire. However, if honeycomb is stored incorrectly and exposed to moisture then it can potentially crystallise or go a little gooey. So how can you avoid this? Check out our next section on how to store honeycomb correctly…
How to store honeycomb
Much like honey, honeycomb must be stored in an airtight container and ideally kept at room temperature. In the cupboard or on the kitchen counter is a perfect place. Once opened, it’s not necessary to store honeycomb in the fridge. In fact, by doing so, the rate of crystalisation may increase. This can result in a batch that’s still edible and safe to eat but with a slightly more gritty texture. Check out our blog on why honey crystallises here.
Honeycomb can come in the jar with honey or quite often sold in single use plastic. At The Scottish Bee Company, we store honeycomb in a bespoke, reusable tin. This means your honeycomb can be stored easily, while not harming the environment or the longevity of the product!
How long does it take for bees to make honeycomb?
There are a variety of factors that can affect how long it takes bees to make honeycomb. The size of the bee population, the amount of nectar gathered for the colony, if it’s a new or established colony and the size of honeycomb being built will all impact how long it takes.
On average, it can take between 7 days to 2 months for honey bees to produce comb and fill the cells with honey. However a well established colony, during peak conditions, can fill out a full 10 frame deep box and fill it with honey in only 3 days. Occasionally it can happen in less than 1 day!
How is honeycomb made by bees?
Honeycomb is made by honeybees. The final product you see in the shop might have a little input from the beekeeper, but ultimately it is another product that comes from the industriousness of the lovely honeybee!
In a previous blog we talked about where beeswax comes from (read here!) and this is the starting point for how honeycomb is made. Beeswax is the material that forms the basis of honeycomb. Honey bees secrete wax from their abdomen and use this to build comb. Comb is made up of hundreds of tiny hexagonal wax cells. The bees essentially use these cells for storage.
So, a forager bee leaves the hive and uses her probiscis to slurp some nectar from a generous flower. She stores this nectar in her honey stomach and takes it back to the hive. Once in the hive the forager bees deposits her nectar into one of the wax cells. Lots of bees then use their wings to fan the nectar in order to reduce the moisture content. At this point the nectar has become honey and the cell is capped with a layer of beeswax in order to preserve it.
While one honeybee might take forever to fill a cell with honey - what with producing just 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime - 50,000 honeybees working as a super organism will fill these hexagonal cells pretty quickly! Thus before you know it, the bees have built, filled and capped a whole load of honeycomb.
So how does this honeycomb get into our lovely reusable tin?
In the height of the season bees can and will fill frame after frame and box after box with honeycomb. As beekeepers we remove one of these boxes (normally filled with 10 frames of comb) and take it away in order to cut the honeycomb into the small sections you see above.
When being processed into jars rather than the natural honeycomb, the honey is extracted from the honeycomb by slicing the honeycombs, uncapping it and allowing the honey to flow out. Of course we always ensure there is enough honey left on the hives for the bees. The boxes get taken home and the frames are then removed and the honeycomb cut up into small rectangular sections. These are weighed and popped into a box. And that’s how honeycomb is made.
Why do bees build hexagonal honeycombs
Next we’ll explore why honeycomb is hexagonal. Interestingly, we’ve never seen bees build any other shape so let’s find out the logic of our four legged furry friends!
The hexagonal cells within a hive act as a home and storage. It holds the queen bee’s eggs and provides a space to raise young bees and stores the pollen and honey brought in by the worker bees. This means the design of the hive is crucial to ensure efficiency of the hive.
So why do bees build hexagonal honeycombs? If you think about it, a hive with circles wouldn’t work well as it would leave gaps in the honeycomb. Shapes such as triangles or squares wouldn’t leave gaps and would provide the right structure; however the six sides of a hexagon has the strongest and most effective shape. Bees are incredibly intelligent and creative with their choice of geometry and engineering to build their hives. The hexagon shape uses the least amount of material to hold the most weight. Most materials created with hexagon shapes can also withstand a lot of force. In human terms, bridges, cars and airplanes are all made using hexagon shapes!
So, honeycomb is hexagonal to ensure most efficient use of space whilst requiring as small amount of wax as possible. The shape holds the maximum amount of honey, whilst ensuring no space is wasted, as the hexagons fit tight, and side by side together.
5 ways to eat honeycomb
So now we know honeycomb is 100% edible and delicious. Let’s have a look at what to do with honeycomb…
2. Honeycomb is a great addition, aesthetically and for the pairings, on any charcuterie board. Combine with bread, meat, fruit and, of course, cheese! If you enjoy strong cheese, try an Isle of Mull or if you prefer flavoured cheeses like gorgonzola dolce, pair it with a scoop of honeycomb on a cracker and enjoy!
3. Start your day off with a kick of natural sweetness by melting a slice of honeycomb over a warm bowl of porridge or mixing into granola.
4. An artisan product like honeycomb pairs perfectly with an artisan pizza. Try a slice of honeycomb with a meat of your choice, one of our flavoured vinegars, and basil.
5. Last but not least, keep it simple and indulge in honeycomb straight from the tin with a spoon! It’s a wonderful way to begin the morning, a guilt-free snack for lunchtime or a sweet treat after dinner.
Is honeycomb good for you?
Good for your body
Our award winning, immune boosting pure Scottish Heather Honey is known for its unique health benefits; packed full of antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, antibiofilm activity, high levels of antioxidants and ten times more manganese than any other honey in the world. Our honey is tested regularly for pesticides and is GMO free.
Good for the environment
We’ve worked hard to ensure our honey is as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible; we have no GMOs or pesticides in any of our products and all our packaging is fully recyclable.
Good for the bees
By supporting us you are not only helping keep the bees in business, but 10p from every jar purchased goes to our sister charity, RePollinate. The charity aims to protect and improve the environment by building wildflower spaces across the UK for pollinators to thrive.
Where to buy honeycomb?
You must be wondering now where can I get raw honeycomb? At The Scottish Bee Company, our raw, pure and completely edible honeycomb is cut directly from the hive once a year. It makes a fantastic unique gift for your loved ones this Christmas or simply an additional item in the cupboard to start your day with! You can pick up your own tin of heather honeycomb by clicking here.
While you’re here, let us know in the comments your favourite way to eat honeycomb!