Updated on December 6th, 2021
“Honeycomb” often refers to the wax structure bees use to store food and raise brood. Since we’re talking about eating here, we mean that portion of the comb that contains capped honey, also called “comb honey.”
You can eat honeycomb as beeswax is 100% edible. As for how to eat honeycomb: chew it comb to release the honey, then spit out or swallow the wax (thinner pieces are easier to swallow); spread honeycomb on something hot (like toast) to soften the wax; or crush the comb and let the honey drain through a strainer.
Comb honey is the purest form of raw honey. It’s the natural state you’ll find honey in a beehive. Raw honey may contain pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and other material (like teeny tiny bee parts) that are beneficial.
See our article What Is Raw Honey? for more information
In this article, we’ll explain how to eat honeycomb for those of you unsure about it. We will also cover the benefits and risks of eating honeycomb.
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Can You Eat Honeycomb?
People question if you can eat honeycomb because of the wax component. (I think we all know the honey is edible…Yummy!)
Beeswax Is Edible
You can eat honeycomb, including the beeswax. Honey bees produce wax naturally for brood and food storage. This beeswax, consisting mainly of fatty acids and fatty alcohols, is edible by humans.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration includes beeswax on its list of food for human consumption and generally recognized as safe.
An important exception: do NOT feed any honey (or honey comb) to infants under one year of age. Infants that young have not developed the beneficial bacteria to protect them from spores that cause botulism. (See How can I protect my baby from infant botulism? on the Mayo Clinic website.) Also, some recommend avoiding honey during pregnancy for similar reasons.
See our article What Is Honeycomb? (Talking Beeswax) for more information about how bees make and use their hexagonal (six-sided) wax structures.
How To Eat Honeycomb
Now that you know it’s edible, we’ll recommend several ways to eat comb honey.
I most often eat honeycomb by cutting off a chunk and chewing it.
It doesn’t take long to get all that sweet, golden nectar out of the comb. Eventually, you end up with what feels like a waxy chunk of flavorless gum.
You can swallow the beeswax, but I don’t find it appealing. Just spit it out and grab another piece.
If you’re thinking about producing comb honey from your hives, check out this book on Amazon.
Heat softens beeswax. Putting comb honey on hot food (toast, pancakes, waffles, etc.) softens the wax making it more spreadable and easier to swallow.
If you’re eating something not heated (like a cracker), just cut a very thin slice of honeycomb. Thin slices are easier to spread as they contain less wax.
Once the honeycomb is spread, you’ll hardly notice the wax as you eat it. Feel free to add some cheese or jam or whatever you like to your honeycomb cracker.
Crush And Strain Honeycomb
If eating beeswax is not to your liking, extract the honey yourself by a crush and strain method.
When we cut up harvested honeycomb, some leftover chunks don’t make sense to save.
We crush these pieces (a potato masher works fine) and pour the results into a standard kitchen strainer over a bowl. This separates the honey from large particles of wax. Let it drain for about 24 hours, and most of the honey will be out of the comb.
Pour the honey it into a clean jar, and you’ve got liquid raw honey that may still contain small wax particles.
Where To Get Honeycomb
As a beekeeper, the best place to get comb honey is out of your own hives.
For honeycomb production, use thin surplus foundation like this from Mann Lake. Or, alternatively, use foundationless frames.
See our article about beehive frames and foundation for more information.
If you have not cut your own comb (or you do not keep bees), try some comb honey from your local beekeeper. If you don’t have a local source, we suggest the following:
Benefits Of Eating Honeycomb
As the purest form of raw honey (honey precisely as the bees made it), honeycomb contains all the material that processed honey eliminates. Eating raw honey is the best way to obtain all the benefits
Most mass-produced honey you find in stores has been heated, pasteurized, and filtered in a way that removes or destroys many components of raw honey such as pollen, propolis, and royal jelly.
These various products of honey bees have multiple benefits as described in a recent research paper. (Source: Pasupuleti, Visweswara Rao et al. “Honey, Propolis, and Royal Jelly: A Comprehensive Review of Their Biological Actions and Health Benefits.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2017 (2017): 1259510. doi:10.1155/2017/1259510).
This research paper includes the following charts highlighting some benefits of these hive products :
Risks Of Eating Honeycomb
As mentioned earlier, honeycomb (or honey in any form) should not be fed to infants less than a year old. There are a few other risks worth mentioning.
If you are allergic to bees or pollen, you may want to avoid honeycomb.
Although the National Honey Board says that “the amount of pollen in honey is minuscule,” you could experience an allergic reaction.
When we extract honey from our hives, we are careful not to let too much wax go down the sink drain. This wax can harden and clog the pipes.
The same thing can happen to your internal “pipes.” Overeating honeycomb may cause stomach or intestinal blockages.
How much is too much? I don’t know that there’s a firm answer to that question. It’s one reason I generally spit out the wax and use it sparingly as a spread.
The Mayo Clinic says, “seek immediate medical care if you have severe abdominal pain or other symptoms of intestinal obstruction” such abdominal pain, constipation or swelling of the abdomen and others (see Intestinal Obstruction on the Mayo Clinic website).
Honey’s High Caloric Content
High caloric content is an issue with honey in general, not just honeycomb.
Honey is about 40% fructose, a form of sugar. It has more calories than table sugar by volume: 16 calories per teaspoon for sugar vs. 21 calories for honey.
Like any food high in calories, honey can contribute to weight gain and the associated complications. Be sure to count it as part of your sugar intake.
Some people may be surprised to learn that you can eat beeswax.
Honeycomb, or comb honey, is considered safe for human consumption, wax and all. As honey in its rawest form, it’s not only delicious but it carries all the beneficial nutrients and enzymes you want from honey.
Chew it and spit out (or swallow the wax). Spread it on whatever you like. Most of all, enjoy it.
This article is part of a series for beginning beekeepers all about honey.
In the next article, we explain why comb honey is more expensive than extracted, liquid honey.