Honey Bee Brood, the Future of Food?

The larvae and pupae of drones is honey bee brood that has great potential as a food source.  Many countries, including Mexico, Thailand and Australia, eat it as a delicacy. The brood has a nutty flavor with a crunchy texture when eaten cooked or dried.  It is used as a versatile ingredient in soups and egg dishes and has high nutritional value, similar to beef in terms of protein quality and quantity.

The human population is estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050 and eating insects is gaining attention as a possible way to feed the world.  The Journal of Apicultural Research published how honey bee brood has great potential as a food source.

In order to manage Varroa mites, the most harmful parasite affecting honey bees worldwide, the beekeepers are accustomed to removing the brood.   Professor Annette Bruun Jensen of the University of Copenhagen and colleagues believe that this practice makes drone brood an abundant source of farmed insects with untapped potential for human consumption.

There are a number of advantages for brood farming, including the relatively little space and low financial investment required to set up hives.  Honey bee biology and breeding has a long history compared to other candidates for insect farming. There would be several challenges, however, for this method of farming to take hold with none being more so than in the harvesting of brood, which is very fragile and difficult to remove intact from the hive.  

Shelf life and storage are important considerations as due to their high fat content, larvae and pupae could go rancid if not properly removed from contact with oxygen.  Research has shown that they can be frozen and stored for a period of up to 10 months without a great loss or change of taste.

They have not yet assessed the food safety risks associated with bee brood, but no cases of food poisoning have ever been recorded.  The European Food Safety Authority has found no additional or specific risks associated with the production and consumption of insects compared to traditional livestock production.

Profession Bruun Jensen said: “Honey bees and their products are appreciated throughout the world.  Honey bee brood and in particular drone brood, a by-product of sustainable Varroa mite control, can therefore pave the way for the acceptance of insects as a food in the western world.”

Whatever you do, don’t forget that great, sweet honey that bees provide us with for all that cooking and treatment for gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, inflammatory and neoplastic states.  Propolis, the “caulk” honeybees use to patch holes in their hives, has been used as a natural remedy since ancient times, treating ills ranging from sore throats and burns to allergies. Research has revealed another exciting use for this seemingly miraculous substance, this time in the fight against cancer.

Dr Fredda Branyon