Is raw honey from a beehive safe to eat?
April 23, 2007 10:36 PM   Subscribe

Can I eat raw honey from a fallen beehive?

A beehive fell out of a palm tree in front of my apartment today. There are no more bees, except for a few caucuses laying around. The honeycomb is quite heavy and soaked with honey, but it's black and tar-like. Is it edible? If so, what's the best way of extracting the honey from the comb?
posted by afx114 to Food & Drink (16 answers total)
I can't advise on how to extract it, but honey never goes bad. Ever. They have opened Egyptian pharaoh's tombs and the honey buried with them was still edible.
posted by cali at 10:42 PM on April 23, 2007

However, what you have there may not be honey. It could be dead grubs. Me, I wouldn't risk it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:47 PM on April 23, 2007

Might want to check this out.
posted by pravit at 11:01 PM on April 23, 2007

I've seen documentaries in which natives disorient bees with smoke, take their honey, and eat it fresh.
posted by HotPatatta at 11:09 PM on April 23, 2007

I dare say if it was toxic the bees would not have stuffed their hive with it. Raw honey can be quite dark in color.

Crush the hive to get the honey out, and give it a try.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:33 PM on April 23, 2007

Honey is an energy rich enough food that there is usually immediate competition for it, if it is good, and undefended by active bees. If birds or other creatures are already attracted, become the apex of the food chain, drive away the competition, and go for it. Otherwise, as with any wild food, don't be the first taster...
posted by paulsc at 11:59 PM on April 23, 2007

Best answer: If that was honey and it was any good it would likely have been overwhelmed by foraging bees within an hour of hitting the ground. Honey is the number one food preference of bees, as they get to skip all the processing. It's possible, though, that you've got honey. It can get quite dark, depending on the local flora. If it's not honey, it's maybe some kind of foulbrood, but you should be able to easily tell the two apart. One will be runny, decomposed larvae, and the other will be sweet and delicious.

If you still want to have a go, you just need to crush it and strain it. The old-fashioned way was to crush the comb in cheesecloth. The best way is a centrifuge, but these are designed to take frames of comb, not loose comb like you've got there.

On a side note, it is indeed possible for honey to go bad--it can grow moldy or, if you're lucky, ferment. Honey that was sealed at the proper moisture level will stay good as long as it remains sealed.
posted by Nahum Tate at 12:29 AM on April 24, 2007

Personally, if I didn't feel at risk of getting attacked by bees, I would just go up and poke my finger in and try a very small amount. If it tasted somewhat honey like, I'd find someone like Nahum Tate (or his website or page on eHow to see if I could extract it.

posted by !Jim at 1:03 AM on April 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, are say if it was toxic the bees would not have stuffed their hive with it.

All things that are toxic to humans are also toxic to bees?
posted by !Jim at 1:04 AM on April 24, 2007

How's this for second-hand second-hand knowledge. As a student, I lived with some guys studying environmental science. They told me that jelly (jam) will never go bad because it's sugar, and the sugar grabs the water that the bacteria needs. Hence it's a preservative.

So the honey won't have 'gone bad'. That doesn't mean it's edible, of course.
posted by humblepigeon at 1:29 AM on April 24, 2007

Beware Mad Honey. Check the area for rhododendrons, mountain laurels and azaleas. If so prepare to be uncomfortable if you try it. Similarly, Tutu Honey in New Zealand can potentially kill people.
posted by arruns at 2:50 AM on April 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

To extend !Jim's point: carcasses

If you try it, please let us know how it tastes!
posted by kimota at 4:34 AM on April 24, 2007

The quickest way to get the putative honey off the comb would be to gently heat it in a bain marie. The wax will float above the honey, and any crystallized honey will uncrystallize.
posted by roofus at 5:45 AM on April 24, 2007

The answer to the question, as asked, is most certainly yes, with the presumably extremely rare caveats about Mad Honey.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:29 AM on April 24, 2007

Per this article on Colony Collapse Disorder in The Independent, sometimes hives that have been "killed" from CCD do not get re-populated by another bee colony nor do they get invaded by parasites, for some unknown reason.
The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.
So, the fact that the honey remains unforaged does not necessarily mean that it's gone bad or poisonous. Of course, it also doesn't mean that it's still good to eat, either.
posted by skwm at 6:32 AM on April 24, 2007

If it's black and tarlike, it isn't honey. It's propolis.
posted by bricoleur at 10:34 AM on April 24, 2007

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