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What's For Dinner? Crunchy Honey Bee Larvae and Pupae Are on the Menu!

Nov 29, 2016 10:57 AM EST
Honey bee brood can lead to insects as a food in the western world
A beekeeper picks a bee larva out of the honeycomb. The brood of honey bee drones are a plentiful source of farmed insects and posses a great potential to be consumed by humans. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

Given the increasing human population that has been projected to number 9 billion by 2050, scientists are always looking out for new potential sources of food. One particular ingredient caught their eye: honey bee brood or the larvae and pupae of drones.

In a paper published in the Journal of Apicultural Research, it was presented that the brood of honey bee drones are a plentiful source of farmed insects with a great potential to be consumed by humans. Lead author of the study, Professor Annette Bruun Jensen of the University of Copenhagen, noted that most beekepers remove the brood to counter the spread of Varroa mite, also known as the most harmful parasite among honey bees worldwide.

"Honey bees and their products are appreciated throughout the world," Professor Bruun Jensen shared. "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."

The practice of brood farming has many advantages since it does not require a large arable expanse of land and would only need a low financial investment to acquire the hives. And compared to other possible options for insect farming, research on the biology of the honey bee as well as its breeding practices are more abundant.

However, there are also quite a few disadvantages that must be faced before brood farming could be done on a larger scale. The harvesting of the brood is one such challenge since it is very fragile and highly difficult to remove from the hive without considerable damage. Another challenge is storage since larvae and pupae have a high fat content and could become rank if exposed to oxygen. It is only when the brood is frozen that it could be stored for up to 10 months without considerable difference in taste.

Honey bee brood has not been associated with any cases of food poisoning but it is still being assessed. The European Food Safety Authority hasn't published any warnings against consuming insects as opposed to traditional animal livestock.

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