Last Updated on November 6, 2022
Can you eat honey from a dead hive? This will really depend on how the bees died. I personally never eat honey from a dead hive. But let’s have a look at how you can work out whether eating honey from a dead hive is safe or not.
Why Would Bees Be Dead?
There are a few reasons your bees may be dead and these will help decide what to do:
Winter Cold Killed them
If you open a hive and it is still very cold, and the bees are dead, then the chances are the cluster died due to cold, or in some cases disease. Normally, in winter, we would have fed the bees up on sugar, so the chances are that any combs in the hive are sugar honey, and not honey. I would rule out disease as a reason for death, and if the bees did not die of disease, then you can take these combs indoors and store them until spring and then provide them to other hives to feed those hives for spring.
Can you eat honey from a dead hive that died from cold in winter? If you do not feed your bees and let them overwinter on honey, then this honey should most likely be safe for consumption.
The hive Consumed Poison
I have had this happen, where my bees consumed poison and died. Can you eat honey from a dead hive killed by poison? In this case, you definitely do not want to eat the honey!!! You will find a big heap of dead bees in front of the hive. If it is warm enough for bees to fly, and there are no other bees coming to rob the honey from the hive – or wasps for that matter – then you know that that honey has something really badly wrong with it! Do not under any conditions consume it. I personally would burn this honey!
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The Bees Plugged The Combs During A Very Strong Honeyflow
I have had this happen once, and a few friends have had similar experiences. In an exceptionally strong honeyflow, the bees bring in so much nectar that they will make honeycomb even in the brood nest. As brood hatches, the bees fill every comb, and soon the queen cannot lay. Rather ironically, the bees will then swarm and leave behind an entire hive full of honey.
I once came to an apiary, and had 30 hives that were like this! It was most bizarre and happens once in a very long time. This honey was perfectly safe to eat. The way you can tell this has happened is that the entire box will be plugged with capped honeycomb! There will be no space left for brood. Can you eat honey from a dead hive that absconded because it was completely full of honey? Yes.
Small Hive Beetles Overwhelmed The Hive
When small hive beetles multiply up to very high numbers in a hive, they will destroy the brood nest and some of the honeycombs. The horrible stench of this will cause the bees in the hive to abscond, and other bees or wasps will not rob this honey. Can you eat honey from a dead hive killed by small hive beetles? Probably, but it really stinks and I would suggest not to.
What To Do With Honey From A Dead Hive?
Have a look at the above causes of hive death. Depending on what the suggested outcome is, you either can use the honey or should destroy it. In the case of bees killed by poison, burn the honey and combs in a safe place. I do this by making a large bonfire and throwing the combs on the bonfire at night. Beware – wax burns hot.
If the honey is safe to consume as per some of the options above, you can then consume it and enjoy it.
Can I Harvest Honey From A Dead Hive?
Read through the causes of a hive being dead, and ascertain from these what you will do with the honey. In some cases, you can harvest honey from a dead hive, and in some cases, it is safer to destroy this honey.
Can You Eat Honey With Wax Moths?
Yes. Sometimes if you leave supers standing for a while you may find a few wax moths building webs and making a mess in a corner of a super. These are relatively harmless – although they stink a bit, and you will want to run the honey through a sieve to remove webbing, larvae, and cocoons.
What Causes Mold On Capped Honey?
Sometimes, if your bees have nosema in winter and cannot get out of the hive, they can end up defecating in the hive. This will then cause mold to grow on the combs. If you find a hive with these conditions, you can actually just rinse the combs using a cloth and remove the mold and then crush the combs and make mead with them!!
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Can you eat honey from a dead hive? In a few cases yes, and in a few cases no. You need to ascertain, based on the causes of a hive becoming a dead out listed above, whether the honey contains poisons or not. If the answer is no, then you can work out the next steps. But it is really important to follow the logic above to decide if it is safe to eat honey from a dead hive. Personally, generally, I would probably not eat the honey from a dead hive just because there is some risk of a false diagnosis.
Dr. Garth A. Cambray is a Canadian/South African entrepreneur and beekeeper with 28 years of experience in apiculture and specializes in adding value to honey. His Ph.D. research developed a new advanced continuous fermentation method for making mead that has resulted in a number of companies globally being able to access markets for mead. His company, Makana Meadery, exports honey mead to the USA where it is available to discerning connoisseurs. He has also developed technologies to commercially manufacture organic honey vinegar in Zambia for export globally. He holds a few patents globally in the ethanol industry and believes in technology and knowledge transfer for human development and environmental sustainability. One of his proudest achievements is the fact that the wind farm he started at one of his old apiary sites has essentially made his hometown carbon neutral.