What is Honeycomb?

What is HoneycombWhat is honeycomb? Honeycomb is a cluster of repeating hexagonal beeswax cells that fill the interior of a  honey bee beehive. While adequate, this definition raises more questions than it actually answers. Let’s take a closer look at this miraculous substance and its ingenious design!

Why the hexagon? Honeybees are not unique in their selection of the hexagon as a structural building shape. The hexagon has been utilized throughout evolution due to its simplicity, strength, and durability. All vascular plants maintain a water-transporting tissue called xylem. This tissue is designed to move water from the plant roots to the plant leaves where it will be used in the process of photosynthesis to build the glucose molecule. Water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere combine to build plant sugars in a process known as carbon fixation. The hexagon is employed by many plant species in the structure of xylem tissue.

The hexagon lattice structure is also incorporated into animal bone tissue. The hexagonal matrix of bone tissue provides strength but also gives bones a lightweight quality. This enhances mobility without creating undue stress on skeletal muscle groups.

Honey bees are not the only insect to make use of this brilliant design. Paper wasps (Polistinae) construct their nests from paper using a repeating hexagonal honeycomb pattern. Although these insects do not produce honey, they do use hexagonal cells for developing brood just as the honey bee does.

The hexagon is the base shape for a matrix that minimized the used of construction material while at the same time maximizing the strength and reducing the weight of the final product.


What is honeycomb?

Honeycomb Minis!

What is beeswax? Beeswax is the substance from which honeycomb is made. Beeswax is a lipid-like all other waxes. Honeybees secrete beeswax from eight glands with openings on their lower abdomen. Honeybees must consume honey in order to produce beeswax. The beeswax hardens on the abdomen region and flakes of in clear flat pieces known as scales. These scales are then chewed and softened by worker bees and formed into hexagonal cells within the honeycomb. Although the scales are initially clear, they become opaque following the chewing and re-forming.

Why do honeybees make beeswax comb? Honeycomb is the internal structure of the honeybee hive. The come forms the “rooms” that are the home of the honeybee. A single hexagonal structure is known as a cell. Individual cells serve the colony in different ways. Upon returning from her mating flight, the queen bee lays her eggs in the cells that have been constructed by her female worker bees. These cells are known as brood cells and will serve as incubation chambers for developing honeybees. The brood cells are meticulously maintained by the female worker bees. After all the brood is the future of the colony!

Is Honeycomb Nutritious? Honeycomb is basically beeswax and raw honey. The beeswax has very little nutritional value Honeycombwith the exception of trace amounts of vitamin A. However since our system does not break down beeswax, it is a very good source of roughage. Raw honey as we have discussed is very nutritious; packed full of vitamins, enzymes, pollen, and antioxidants. Interestingly, the most nutritious of all raw honey is honey still sealed in the wax cells of the honeycomb. Honey in its purest form (inside the cells of honeycomb) contains very little water. But honey, when exposed to air, has a tendency to pull water from the atmosphere. So, honey that is removed from the comb and exposed to air holds around 12% more water than honey left sealed in the comb. This dilution creates a slight but measurable difference in nutritional value by weight. Honey that remains sealed in the beeswax honeycomb cells is without question the purest form of raw honey!


Submitted By: Brantley Crowder

Comments (20)

  1. Very nice article, exactly what I was looking for.

  2. John Anderson says:

    I have a huge honeycomb in a tree at my home in Phoenix Az. My wife is allergic to new stings, how do I get rid of this without hurting the bees?

    1. brantley says:

      Contact your local Beekeeper’s Association. Many times a local beekeeper will come out to your home and remove the bees for free. The take the bees back to their apiary and set up a new hive. So it’s a win – win!

  3. John J Conlon says:

    I would like to obtain at least one section of honey in honeycomb square wood box presentation produced in the traditional manner with the usual expertise required. Your help would be appreciated John J Conlon email [email protected] residential address 61 Clanrye Ave., Newry Co Down BT35 6EG N Ireland Tel 004428302 64330

  4. Craig says:

    On the bottom of your Honeycomb plastic package it reads “Got one with Pollen? Lucky you! How can you tell if you “got one with pollen?

    Thanks, Craig

    1. brantley says:

      Hi Craig, thanks for the great question! Bee pollen is the hives primary source of protein. Sometimes the worker bees will stash these little golden nuggets right in their honeycomb. This honeycomb packed with bee pollen is often referred to as “bee bread”. As you slice your honeycomb or scoop it out with a spoon, you can actually see the cells that are filled with whole bee pollen. Sometimes you can see these cells through the wax cap on individual cells. Check out the bee bread product page for some really great images of these cells. Although we are currently sold out of bee bread it should be back in stock sometime in the spring.

  5. Alicia says:

    Hey guys! How do I eat this stuff? Can I eat it raw? With fruit on top?

    1. brantley says:

      Hey Alicia! Thanks for the great question! You can definitely eat honeycomb raw and it pairs very well with fruit. I like honeycomb on hot biscuits. It also is perfect with cheese and crackers. If you want a real treat, cut the honeycomb into small cubes and dip into melted dark chocolate on toothpicks. Let these cool so the chocolate can harden. Now, that’s a real treat!

  6. Karin Bender says:

    Just bought a 4.5 oz raw honeycomb at Whole Foods. Opened it and tastes delicious! I left it covered, unfrigerated, and this morning the honey is quite liquid on the bottom of its container. Is this to be expected?

    We live in South Florida, air-conditioned house. Should we continue to leave the box unfrigerated?


    1. brantley says:

      Yes, this sounds normal. The honey inside capped honeycomb cells will stay in place but once you cut the honeycomb some honey from opened cells will drain into the bottom of the container. Honey is naturally very resistant to any microbial contamination and does not need to be refrigerated. It will be fine on the counter for at least 18 months. Have a great day!

  7. Kathy Mac says:

    just wondering on tips to open the plastic honeycomb container. We were looking forward to enjoying it yesterday with triple cream Brie…but alas not clever enough to open the container and did not want to try a hammer…I did take the plastic off…

  8. Danielle says:

    I was recenetly in Savannah, Georgia and visted the store. While there I bought a mini honeycomb. im feeling under the weather and want to put it into some boiling water. Will this work, if so how should i do it? Ive read that it creates a wax film on top, is there a way around this? Or should i just use honey from a bottle?

    1. brantley says:

      Great question! I am afraid that there is no way around the wax film as the beeswax comb is melting into the water. I would go with liquid honey. Also, make sure that your water is not boiling. Really high temperatures can destroy the beneficial antioxidants and enzymes. Add some fresh squeezed lemon juice for an extra kick!

  9. Frances Wholey says:

    We enjoyed the honeycomb style honey over the holidays – everyone loved it! It was delicious and nutritious – excellent products! I have already reordered ! FW

  10. Lucia says:

    I was thoroughly impressed with the products I ordered, although all were for gifts. I am waiting to hear from my family and friends. I loved them and I plan on ordering more. Thank you so much. I am glad I found your company.

  11. Carole Cruz says:

    I just love this stuff & enjoy chewing on the wax after the honey is gone &, I’m not an expert,- but based on my own dental experiences, believe that’s a good way to put pressure on you jaw bones which helps keep teeth healthy. Anyway, I spent decades looking for it after having it once – never thinking to look on internet, & was thrilled to find it in my local store. It’s fabulous.

  12. Ryan says:

    As a previous customer, it won’t last six months once opened (lol)

    1. brantley says:

      @ Ryan – I once ate an entire honeycomb round in one sitting!

  13. Jacki says:

    How long does it stay fresh open once opened?

    1. brantley says:

      HI Jacki! The honeycomb will stay fresh for a couple of months. Beyond that it is still edible and good (honey has amazing antimicrobial properties) but the wax will stiffen a bit. After six months or so you could see the honey in the comb crystallize a little (still edible). Store the honeycomb at room temperature in a sealed tupperware container to extend freshness!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *