Honey bee brood – a good source of food?

The harvesting of bee larvae could help feed the hungry(Credit: dinhngochung/Depositphotos)

What do cultures in places such as Mexico, Australia and Thailand have in common? They all consider "bee brood" to be a delicacy. Consisting of bee larvae and pupae, it reportedly has a "nutty flavor with a crunchy texture when eaten cooked or dried," plus it rivals beef in protein quantity and quality. With that in mind, a University of Copenhagen study suggests that the harvesting of bee brood be pursued on a larger scale in order to address world hunger.

The researchers are specifically looking at the brood of honey bee drones, which are reared at a specific time of year. Beekeepers already remove large quantities of drone brood from commercial hives, in order to minimize the chances of the colony being infested by the Varroa mites that are attracted to it. The keepers do so in a sustainable manner, however, leaving enough brood to keep the colony going.

According to the scientists, there are several advantages to raising bee brood as a food source – besides the nutty taste, that is. First of all, it utilizes something that is being harvested anyway. The hives also require little space, are relatively inexpensive to set up, plus they produce honey and support the pollination of crops.

Removing the delicate brood without damaging it could prove challenging, however, with several methods currently being pursued. Storing of the harvest is also an issue, although the brood can reportedly be frozen for up to 10 months without adverse effect.

"Honey bees and their products are appreciated throughout the world," says lead scientist Prof. Annette Bruun Jensen. "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."

A paper on the research was recently published in the Journal of Apicultural Research.

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