Honeycomb is honey, just as the bees made it.
Honeycomb is the purest form of honey. It's cut directly from the hive and can't be heated, blended, or processed, without compromise. The wax cells of honeycomb are so delicate, they can barely be touched by human hands without breaking. All parts of the honeycomb are edible and delicious!
Because pesticides and agrochemicals tend to accumulate in beeswax, beekeepers must be intentional about every aspect of honey production, beginning with the landscape their bees are raised in, in order for honeycomb to be safe for human consumption. Pass the Honey believes that being attentive to every step of the process—from the beekeepers' livelihoods, to the health of the honeybees themselves, and the diversity of the environment—is a requirement for producing delicious, pure honeycomb. It’s the berry, not the jam.
Our honeycomb lends a delightfully chewy texture to the complex sweetness of honey. It's hard to beat the sensory experience of wax cells full of honey exploding in your mouth.
The Structure of Honeycomb
Honeycomb is a collection of repeating hexagonal wax cells, constructed by bees, that contain honey and flower nectar. Honeycomb makes up the interior structure of a honeybee hive and is used to store food, rear young, and protect the hive.
Honeycomb construction requires the efforts of many bees. As bees eat honey, they extrude wax through eight glands on their abdomen. As the wax builds up on their abdomens, it flakes off in clear flat scales, which are gathered and chewed by other bees to soften the wax and make it malleable. The bees collect the processed wax and use it to build the comb. It takes a hive between two weeks and two months to produce enough honeycomb to store enough honey to feed its colony through the winter.
Honeycomb contains pollen, propolis (a resinous substance bees use to construct and repair their hive), and royal jelly, all of which are proven to have health benefits. Comb honey (the term we use to describe honeycomb that is produced for human consumption) is safe and delicious to eat in its entirety: both the honey and the wax!
Pass The Honey's individually portioned honeycomb includes all the benefits of comb honey, with the convenience of a portable snack.
Why is honeycomb difficult to produce?
One reason honeycomb is difficult to produce is because beeswax production requires a lot of time and energy: Bees need to consume approximately six to eight pounds of honey to produce one pound of beeswax.
As a result, most conventional beekeepers forgo producing honeycomb entirely and instead, reuse existing honeycomb or supply bees with artificial foundations, made of recycled wax or plastic, on which to build their hives. (The less time and energy honeybees spend making wax, the more time and energy they have to make liquid honey, which is generally more profitable.) While artificial foundations maximize liquid honey production, they threaten honeybee and hive health. They also present challenges for the ecosystem and for the safe consumption of honey.
Another reason why honeycomb is difficult to produce is because conventional beehives are often kept on land where pesticides have been sprayed directly on the hive or on the lands where the honeybees forage. Pesticides and agrochemicals can be picked up by the bees as they pollinate nearby crops and flowers. High levels of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides can negatively affect bees' immune system, growth, reproduction, and hive production. The chemicals can also accumulate in the wax, posing a threat to bee health and making it unsafe for humans to eat.
So, for honeycomb to be safe for human consumption, the land and forage zone from which it is sourced must be free of harmful chemicals and pollutants. The safest and most nutritious honeycomb comes from beekeepers who are judicious about pesticides and who allow their hives to draw their own honeycomb, no matter how long it takes.
One final reason that honeycomb is difficult to produce is that the post-harvest process for honeycomb is manually intensive. Cutting honeycomb from the hive requires individual assessment and treatment for each section of the honeycomb. This difference in the harvesting process results in higher labor costs per unit for honeycomb compared to liquid honey. (Liquid honey, on the other hand has become an economy of scale that privileges artificial foundation, recycled beeswax, and large scale honey extractors, all of which can be detrimental for the environment, honeybees, and honeycomb production. Liquid honey might be cheaper, but it's worse for all.)
Pass The Honey requires that our beekeepers allow their bees to draw their own honeycomb free from pesticides and agrochemicals no matter the time it takes, in order to keep their bees healthy and honeycomb safe for human consumption. Because we prioritize quality honeycomb, we prioritize quality beekeeping, too.
Why is honeycomb production better for small-scale producers?
For small-scale producers, honeycomb is more cost effective to produce than liquid honey. It makes more sense for a beekeeper who tends ten to fifteen hives to sell honeycomb, which commands a higher price, than spring for expensive liquid honey extraction equipment. The cost of processing equipment is more expensive than the profits gained from harvesting liquid honey.
The characteristics that make it a challenge to produce honeycomb at scale today—keeping pollutants out of beeswax and being attentive to the health of the ecosystem—make supporting honeycomb a great step toward protecting the environment. Supporting honeycomb also allows us to support small-scale producers and their communities. Pass the Honey is invested in helping small-scale beekeepers develop operations that allow them to manage regenerative operations and to work cooperatively with others.
Why is honeycomb better for the environment?
Pass the Honey's foundationless method helps to diversify ecosystems.
Pass the Honey's beekeepers all use the foundationless method to produce their honey. What this means is that our beekeepers don't use a base layer of plastic or wax to help their bees build honeycomb onto frames. Using a base layer, called a foundation in beekeeping, makes beekeeping and producing liquid honey a little easier as bees have a base to build upon. However, when beepers use a foundation they are only able to produce liquid honey (not consumable honeycomb) and such practices limit bees to building cells that are the size of the imprints in the foundation layer (rather than building cells according to the needs of the hive).
With a foundationless method, honeybees are encouraged to collect flower nectar at their own pace to build honeycomb and hives for their own needs. Without a foundation, bees must produce more beeswax. In order to do so, they must collect more flower nectar and as a result, pollinate a huge diversity of flora. It's necessary for beekeepers who practice a foundationless method to provide a diverse foraging landscape around their apiary in order to supply their bees with a nutrition-filled diet. The ecological diversity is reflected in their hives, where healthy diets create a microbial and fungal balance that keep bees healthy and safe and in rich partnership with the beekeepers.
Pass the Honey’s fresh honeycomb exists to increase vitality, and to do so, we are focused on re-diversifying agro-ecosystems and apiculture operations. This is an ongoing effort to grow our relationships to beekeepers and landscapes around the world. We’re creating a demand for honey with integrity.
Pass the Honey depends on the integrity of the honeycomb, but also on the integrity of the systems that create the honeycomb: the hives, the beekeepers, and the agro-ecosystems that they all work in. To produce a quality product, we identify and support the growth of healthy beekeeping businesses, healthy colonies of bees, and healthy landscapes.