CHAPTER 8
ADULT AND LARVAL HONEYBEES

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8.1 Introduction

As adult honeybees are the producers of all the primary products of beekeeping, it is unlikely that a beekeeper will sell these adult bees when he or she is interested in production of primary products. Honeybees or their brood can however, constitute a primary product, and may be sold directly or be processed for other uses. Beekeepers can make a profit from selling their adult bees, often together with combs of larvae. Depending on market conditions, they can sell their bees in the form of package bees, nuclei or small starter hives and whole, full-size colomes

In many countries, bees are considered a nuisance when they nest in or near houses. This is particularly true when they are among the more defensive types. In such cases, beekeepers may be able to charge to remove the bees. If these bees are not used by the beekeeper to strengthen his own operation and were not killed with pesticides, they can be killed and fed to chicken or pigs. Otherwise, they can be composted. The same procedures are even easier with the brood frames of such colonies. Both adults and larvae are a good protein source.

In many African and Asian countries, brood combs are considered a delicacy and consumed immediately when available (see Figure 8.1). They are also particularly rich in protein since they usually contain quantities of beebread, i.e. the slightly fermented pollen stores of the hive. In some Asian countries, worker or drone pupae (in their white stage) are also prepared for human consumption by pickling or boiling. In canned form, they are found in some European or American specialty stores and can be considered a value added product, even if there is not much demand or a broad market perspective in the West.

8.2 The chemical composition of adult and larval honeybees

The chemical composition of mature and immature honeybees has not received as much attention as that of some other primary products. Only data with few details can consequently be presented (Table 8.1). The data for adult bees has been adapted in order to be comparable to the fresh weight data of immature bees. A 1 % glycogen content was estimated rather than the 9.08% sugar content found in the samples in the original analysis, which was probably due to honey in the bees' digestive tracts. On this basis, adults and immatures have very similar protein values. In adults, over 40% of the protein comes from the muscular tissue of the thorax, which is similar in protein to egg-white.

 

Mr. Lusale, a Zambian beekeeping extension officer, demonstrating  an alternative use for bee brood. 
Figure 8.1 : Mr. Lusale, a Zambian beekeeping extension officer, demonstrating an alternative use for bee brood.

 

8.3 The uses of adult bees and larvae

8.3.1 For beekeeping

The major use of larval and adult bees is undoubtedly that made by the beekeeper for the production of primary bee products. While both can also be considered primary products, the production of complete colonies, starter colonies and packages of bees or queens, are usually not considered as beekeeping !?productst (see Figure 8.2). On the other hand, these activities can produce a considerable amount of additional income, or constitute a whole line of business on their own. A growing beekeeping industry, or growing interest in beekeeping, usually creates a demand for these products.

Their production requires hardly any additional investment if operated on a small scale and profitable sales can be made even if sold one-by-one. However, in many village environments in particular, sales communication between customer and producer often needs to be facilitated by an organization or extension service. A description of how to produce queens, package bees, divide and build-up colonies etc. can be found in all good beekeeping textbooks and manuals. The interested reader is urged to consult these.

 

Table 8.1:
Composition of mature and immature honeybees compared to beef and soybeans
(in % of fresh weight; vitamins in International Units per g fresh weight) modified from Crane, 1990.

Honeybee
Beef
Soybeand
Mature larvae
Pupae
Adulta
Water 77.0 70.2 72.1 74.1 70.0
Ash 3.0 2.2   1.1 1.5
Protein 15.4 18.2 17.9 17.7b 12.9
Fat 3.7 2.4 2.8 2.8 5.9
Glycogen 0.4 0.8 1 0.1-0.7 2.4c
Vitamin A 107 51.3   0  
Vitamin D 6863 5165      
Chitin/fibre     4.1   1.7

a Data corrected for sugar/honey content of analyzed bees, from Ryan et al., 1983;
b Data from Krause an Mahan, 1979;
c Total sugars;
d Soybean data adapted from Smith and Circle, 1972.

8.3.2 For pollination

In the widest sense, one might consider the pollination benefit for agricultural crops provided with honeybee colonies as a value added product. Such benefits increase with more intensive cultivation and more progressive destruction of the natural environment. When planted in monocultures over large areas, crops that require pollination need managed populations of pollinators for any significant production of fruits or seeds (see Figure 8.3). Smaller areas of the same crop may not need the introduction of managed colonies. If they are still surrounded by natural flora, or if alternative floral sources are available to wild pollinators during most of the year. Selection of varieties, and cultural practices such as interplanting can reduce "artificial" pollination requirements for some crops.

Beekeepers in industrialized countries usually charge for pollination services, because they bring the farmer a significant increase in production, are more work for the beekeeper and usually do not produce a honey crop while supplying the service. A detailed discussion of this subject - the different requirements in infrastructure, environment and agricultural practices - are discussed in another FAO publication (Roubik, 1994).

a)
Figure a) Packaged bees ready for shipment.

Figure 8.2 : (a) Packaged bees ready for shipment. (b) Caged, mated queen bee with attendant worker bees and sugar candy, ready for sale, shipment or introduction to a new colony.

b)
Figure b) Caged, mated queen bee with attendant worker bees and sugar candy, ready for sale, shipment or introduction to a new colony.
Honeybee colonies, used for pollination,  on the edge of a sunflower field.
Figure 8.3: Honeybee colonies, used for pollination,
on the edge of a sunflower field.

8.3.3 As food

Adult and larval honeybees contain reasonable amounts of protein and are non-toxic (Table 8.1). They could therefore serve as a direct food source once the beekeeper has no more need for extra bees or brood, or when undesired colonies have to be removed. Honeybee brood of all ages is eagerly consumed by honey hunters in Africa and Asia and is generally considered a delicious treat. For several cultures, brood is said to form a considerable part of the diet (Hill et al., 1984 and Bailey, 1989; as cited in Schmidt and Buchmann, 1992). In China and Japan, drone larvae are canned for export or, after being covered in chocolate, become a sweet treat. Bee brood is regularly sold alongside honey in markets in many parts of Asia (Schmidt and Buchmann, 1992).

Whether fresh, boiled or fried, larvae have a rich nutty flavour. When fried, they maintain their shape and become nice and crunchy. Eating insects in general is considered normal in many cultures, while others have developed strong inhibitions to this practice.

Development time from egg-laying to the adult larvae is 8 to 9 days. If the larvae are harvested right after the cells are capped, they will have increased in weight approximately 1000-fold. The protein content will have increased only slightly less. This growth rate is not as rapid as that of some fly larvae, but is still much faster than the growth rate of more traditional protein sources such as cattle or chicken. Many species of insect larvae are easier to grow, but of all the insects to eat, honeybees probably have the highest public appeal and are probably more acceptable than, for example fly larvae or crickets. While it is difficult to imagine that honeybee larvae will become a major source of protein, they are a special delicacy in some countries and may become so in others. Additionally, they can be a useful protein supplement in otherwise poor diets. Human consumption of adult honeybees is uncommon.

If a colony has to be killed, or the death of a colony is detected soon enough and is not due to pesticides, the fresh or dried bees may replace some of the regular feed for small mammals, birds, chickens (Witherell, 1975) or pigs (Dietz et al., 1976). The author has heard testimonies that indicated both the presence and absence of benefits to poultry. In a similar way, unwanted bees removed from houses or swarm traps may be killed by overheating in a black plastic bag and be composted, or dried and powdered to feed to livestock. However, it is not economically feasible to grow bees for this purpose alone.

Mature drone larvae are in general the preferred choice, probably because of their larger size. In tests with bee larvae as a diet for insect rearing (Coccinellids), frozen drone larvae appeared to provide a more complete diet than worker larvae (Okada, 1971). Bee larvae have been shown to be an excellent food source for rearing insects, particular various beetles and lacewings (Chrysopidae) used for biological pest control (Okada and Matsuka, 1973; Matsuka et al., 1982 and Hasegawa et al., 1983). All kinds of bee larvae were suitable for rearing songbirds (Gary et al., 1961; Guss, 1967 and Lanyon and Lanyon, 1969). The feeding of dried A. cerana larvae to queens of the same species seems to maintain egg-laying, though no long-term tests have been done (Gondal and Hashmi, 1976). Unfortunately, the data are not sufficient to make any deductions as to whether dried larvae are as nutritive or stimulative as royal jelly.

The greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella), though not a bee product, is a very common pest, little appreciated by any beekeeper. It is very easy to raise, however and its eggs can be readily obtained by any beekeeper. The larvae can be stored alive for over a year at 15 0C and 60% relative humidity. When deep fried in oil, the larvae burst and look more like popcorn than insects, which may help in marketing. Simple rearing instructions and a "popmoth" recipe are included in the recipe section.

8.3.4 As medicine

Italian psychiatrists observed improvements in respect to the appetite, body weight, hepatic activity, digestion and haemopholetic functions of 15 female psychiatric patients who were suffering from loss of weight and appetite (Monteverdi and Reitano, 1972).

No other references to any medical tests regarding the consumption or the application of whole larvae, adults or their extracts are known to the author. Whole-bee extracts have in the past been used to desensitize people allergic to bee stings, though with unreliable results. This practice has been discontinued since Hunt et al., (1978) reported that whole-body extracts are no more effective for desensitization than no treatment at all. Pure bee venom has now become the standard for immunization therapy. The production of bee venom from adult bees is covered in Chapter 7.

8.3.5 In cosmetics

During the 1950's, when royal jelly was a "fashionable" product, several patents were registered for the use of queen larvae in cosmetics. References on the subject can be found in section 9.5, but no such current use of such applications is known.

8.4 Collection

8.4.1 Adult bees

Adult bees can be collected regularly from colonies during the growing season by shaking bees off the brood frames into packages (see Figure 8.4). This practice is described in all major beekeeping books on Apis mellifera which have a section on package bee production. Whole businesses have been founded on the production of these packages for beekeepers, but they also need to have a queen rearing operation, since bees should not be shipped without a queen. In Canada, a cotton ball wetted with synthetic queen pheromones has recently been tried successfully as a substitute for a queen, but this method has not been tested extensively for commercial applications yet.

Package bee production is suitable for areas that have an early flowering season, i.e. earlier than in the major honey producing areas. Beekeepers have to be willing to pay for bees and queens and transport has to be safe and quick. The same holds true for production and sale of nucleus starter hives and whole colonies, except that the sale of these is not as dependant on early nectar flows. Either are feasible on a large to very small scale.

If a colony has to be removed from a house or other inaccessible place and is intended for consumption by either human beings or animals, the bees should be sprayed with a mist of plain water or sugar water so that they are easier to bag and cannot fly off. Normally, soapy water is used to achieve this effect, but the soap is difficult to rinse out prior to consumption. They should then be either frozen or overheated to kill them. For storage and further processing see section 8.6 and 8.10.

 

Using a funnel to shake bees into packages in a North American apiary. 
Figure 8.4 : Using a funnel to shake bees into packages in a North American apiary.

8.4.2 Honeybee larvae

The removal of drone larvae will have less affect on colony performance than the removal of worker larvae. Though highly seasonal, drone production can be initiated through feeding and queen selection, and may be promoted further by providing drone size comb or foundation to the colony. In areas where Varroa is controlled by trapping the parasite in drone cells and removing the freshly sealed drone brood, the use of these otherwise discarded larvae may be considered.

Opened or unsealed cells can be shaken and larvae knocked out, but to avoid breaking the comb, it previously should have been reinforced by wiring. Older, dark-coloured combs should be selected. Ideally, most of the larvae should be of similar age. It is easier to use combs which have been sealed for only a few hours, but larvae should have finished pdupation. The cells are uncapped with a fine, serrated and preferably warmed knife, and the larvae and pupae shaken out onto a sheet of paper, aluminum foil, leaf or other clean surface (see Figure 8.5 to 8.8). If the brood need not be whole, a fork with very long, fine prongs (as also used for honey uncapping) can be used to uncap and retrieve the larvae. Since larvae defecate just before pupation, larvae and pupae should be washed in clean water before further processing. Pupae will have clean, empty intestines.

Another method (Schmidt and Buchmann, 1992) uses a small jet of water from a laboratory wash bottle to remove individual larvae from their cells. The author had reasonable success flooding one side of an uncapped comb. All the cells were filled with clean water, and then the larvae and pupae were shaken out (see Figure 8.8).

If combs are to be discarded after removal from a house or wild nest, the whole comb may be squeezed or boiled. The latter works best with new combs, but cells should be uncapped prior to boiling. The melted wax will harden at the surface and larvae will sink to the bottom. Some larvae will still have to be removed from older combs and occasionally from cocoons. The flavour is affected by this method.

8.5 Buying

Before purchasing packaged bees, nuclei or full-size colonies, the buyer should first check for diseases, know the producer and/or require a health certificate, if appropriate inspection services are available. It is always risky to bring bees into new areas, no matter where they come from and how well they have been inspected. Importations of bees have spread all major diseases and may drastically change the resistance of local bees to indigenous varieties of disease organisms. Care should be taken that the full strength of the colony, or the number of bees paid for, is obtained.

When buying brood only, the buyer should make certain that live brood is obtained. The time between removal of brood from the colony and processing should be minimal, since unsealed brood away from the colony will soon die and larval protein will decompose very quickly. Brood should be eaten or processed (boiled, fried or dried) immediately after harvesting. Combs must not be left in the sun under any circumstances.

For larval processing, a comb should contain newly sealed brood of a uniform age. Both larvae and pupae are consumed. Whether there are any preferences and significant nutritional differences, remains unknown. From Table 8.1, it appears that pupae might have a slightly higher protein content. Though no evaluations are known to the author, the highest quantitative nutritive value of larvae is likely to be just before and after metamorphosis into pupae, i.e. a few hours after sealing of the cell.

If processed larvae are bought, it should first be certified that processing was carried out properly under clean conditions, with fresh larvae. Larvae should preferably be dried without exposure to sunlight. Indirect solar drying can be used if the temperature does not exceed 90 0C. Heat lamps and infrared drying will have the same limitations, but lyophilization will have the least degenerative effect. Particularly if powdered larvae are purchased, adulteration needs to be checked.

 

Uncapping of recently sealed brood with a serrated knife. 

Figure 8.5 : Uncapping of recently sealed brood with a serrated knife. The comb is reinforced with wire but should be darker, i.e. older, to prevent breaking during shaking.

Uncapped comb of similarly aged larvae just prior to pupation.

Figure 8.6: Uncapped comb of similarly aged larvae just prior to pupation. Larvae in slightly deformed cells are difficult to remove.

Shaking out larvae on to a clean surface works best with  a darkcoloured, wire reinforced comb. 
Figure 8.7 : Shaking out larvae on to a clean surface works best with a darkcoloured, wire reinforced comb.

8.6 Storage

Packages of live bees with a queen can be stored for several days more - and up to several weeks if stored with sufficient ventilation and food. In hot climates, bees need water and ventilation to stay cool. Overheating is a serious problem than exposure to cold temperatures. Bees should always have access to sugar syrup or honey. During transport, packages or colonies should not be left sitting in the sun for any amount of time. Transport at night is preferable where no other hazards exist.

Live brood should only be stored inside a hive. Sealed brood can also be maintained (kept alive) in a well regulated incubator, at a temperature of 32 to 35 0C (90 to 95 0F). Dead brood and bees need to be refrigerated immediately. All processing should be completed within 24 hours of killing and in hot and humid climates in less than 6 hours.

Larvae dried at 70 - 75 0C store well in sealed plastic bags at room temperature. Caramelization starts at higher drying temperatures. Drying under vacuum or reduced pressure may be advantageous. Deterioration is significant after 7 months of storage at room temperature, but storage deterioration over shorter periods has not been reported. Diets of dried, pulverized drone larvae performed well after storage for 7 months at either - 15~ or 5 0C and satisfactory after 7 years at 5 0C. Exposure to sunlight increased the rate of deterioration, as did heating to 1200C (Sakai et al., 1978). Heating to 900C for 20 minutes had no noticeable deleterious effect, nor did y-radiation at a level of 2.5-3.5 x 106 rad (Sakai et al., 1978). This exposure kills many pathogens, including those of AFB. Fried or boiled larvae should be treated like other protein foods and should be consumed quickly, since even refrigerated they will keep only for a few days.

 If brood cells are filled with water, most of the larvae can be dislodged much easier. This works even better with younger unsealed brood.
Figure 8.8: If brood cells are filled with water, most of the larvae can be dislodged much easier. This works even better with younger unsealed brood.

Preservation methods other than freezing and drying include smoking, pickling and canning. Smoked larvae were found to spoil after a few days unless the larvae were smoked for at least 12 hours at 60 - 900C and 30% relative humidity (Hocking and Matsumura, 1960). Pickling in 15 % and 20% salt solutions was unsatisfactory, mainly because the brood floated in a compact mass on the surface where decomposition was quiteadvanced after three weeks. Freshly killed larvae were pickled satisfactorily in a mixture of malt vinegar, whole mixed spices and 1 % salt. Brandy (alcohol) pickling was very effective with a 1:1 mixture of brandy and brood, changing the brandy after a few days. According to Hocking and Matsumura (1960) neither of the pickling methods produced a product of acceptable flavour.

Some of the above preservation methods and recipes described below lend themselves to canning. Standard canning methods and precautions should be observed.

8.7 Quality control

Quality control of purchased live bees and colonies should follow the guidelines given in the buying section. Beekeepers should ensure bees are healthy with young fertile queens.

Since there are no specific quality standards for honeybee larvae, national or international standards for similar foods should be applied, such as those for canned, dried or pickled meats. Even chocolate covered larvae are probably better treated as meats than sweets, because of their high protein content. Local laws and food standards have to be observed or exceeded. Because of the high protein content and perishability of the larvae and bees, good hygiene and attention to proper processing and handling conditions are essential more so than for most other bee products.

8.8 Caution

The greatest threat to live bees and colonies are diseases and overheating, both of which have to be carefully avoided.

For direct consumption of brood or larvae, care should be taken that no whole bees (alive or dead) are accidentally eaten, since the sting of even a dead bee can release venom when chewed. For the same reason, particular care should be taken when handling freshly frozen bees. Dried adult bees may be pounded or ground to avoid similar problems with livestock. Once the adults have been boiled or fried, the venom is no longer active.

8.9 Market outlook

As mentioned earlier, packaged bee production can be a considerable income source for beekeepers, as can the sale of queens, nuclei/starter colonies and full size colonies. Which of the forms of adult bees are most marketable in a country depends very much on the type of bees and the kind of beekeeping practised.

Nuclei colonies require frame hive beekeeping in standard sized bee hives. Whole colonies instead, can be sold in all sorts of traditional bee hives but buying or selling packaged bees only makes good sense in more intensive, frame hive beekeeping. These conditions, in addition to beekeepers' attitudes and the profitability of beekeeping vary too much from country to country to allow any valid generalizations. Markets, however can be tested easily since small scale sales and production do not require any additional investments.

For the consumption of larval and adult honeybees as food, specialized markets may be accessible where, for example, ethnic communities might consume such foods. Good tasting snacks can be prepared, packaged and sold where no prejudice exists against the consumption of insect larvae. For example, deep fried, salted or sweetened larvae can be packaged as special snacks and larvae flour can be used to enrich wheat flours, but local marketing will be very limited in size and external markets extremely difficult to reach and develop. The People's Republic of China, Taiwan and Japan have small local markets and there may be some trade between these countries (Crane, 1990). Cans of chocolate-covered honeybee drone larvae may be seen in some specialty Asian food stores in Europe and the USA, but according to recent enquiries they are rather difficult to find.

The sale of fresh combs with brood for consumption may be possible in some areas. Broken combs with brood and some pollen bathed in honey could be sold as a very nutritious snack in some local markets. The problem is that the removal of brood combs during honey harvest is destructive and can therefore adversely affect other aspects of beekeeping.

8.10 Recipes

Honeybee larvae or many other insect larvae can be grown cleanly and easily to enrich staple foods with protein. Many types of insect larvae are eaten in the world and most of them can substitute for honeybee larvae in the following recipes.

8.10.1 Preparation of mature and immature bees for human consumption

One way to kill adults or larvae is by freezing them, but if a large quantity of adult bees are placed in a freezer, many of them may still be alive after several days. Bees are much more sensitive to overheating than to cooling and when placed in the sun inside a plastic bag, will die within a few minutes. However, they must be removed from the sun as soon as they are dead since decay will quickly occur. Larvae should be kept alive as long as possible. Once dead, both larvae and adults need to be processed or eaten immediately (see also section 8.6).

After killing, and particularly if they have been killed by overheating, bees should be rinsed in cool, clean water. Once rinsed, they need to be patted dry and either be frozen, cooked or dried. Even when dead, adult bees can still sting and their venom remains active so that during washing and subsequent operations, the sting may penetrate the skin and inject venom. Dried adults should be ground to avoid any dangers of injury from stinging. The venom remains active after drying or freezing, but is deactivated by cooking or frying.

Once removed from the combs, the larvae are ready for processing and preservation, after a short rinse in fresh, clean water (see Figure 8.9).

If larvae are refrigerated immediately, freezing, drying, boiling or frying should be completed less than 24 hours after collection of larvae to avoid any spoilage since insect proteins decay much faster than those of beef, chicken, lamb or pork. Where no refrigeration is available, processing will have to be started immediately after collection. Cooked larvae or pupae can be preserved by freezing. If there is no freezer or refrigerator, the boiled larvae should be consumed within a day. Fried larvae will keep a little longer.

 

8.10.2 Bakutig traditional recipe from Nepal (Bur2ettg 1990)

Brood combs from traditional honey hunts in Nepal are placed into coarse woven fabric or bags and squeezed. The resulting juice is collected and heated over a fire while stirring. The result is described as having a texture similar to that of scrambled eggs but the flavour should be richer.

Bee larvae in a strainer for rinsing. 
Figure 8.9: Bee larvae in a strainer for rinsing.

8.10.3 Frozen larvaeg pupae or adults

Fresh and clean larvae, pupae or adults are frozen in small batches or spread on metal sheets for faster freezing. If plastic bags are used, these should be half filled and flattened on the freezing trays. In larger scale bulk freezing, and especially with pupae or larvae that are already dead, the centre of a large volume freezes more slowly, leaving enough time for larvae or pupae to darken due to oxidation.

8.10.4 Rawg fried and boiled larvae

Honeybee larvae can be consumed like other insect larvae - raw, fried or boiled. The raw larvae can be chewed while still inside the comb or after removal. Chewing comb which also contains pollen further increases the nutritional value. The age of the larvae is not very important, but whiter or newer combs are preferred for chewing.

If skins of larvae are intact after collection, they may be rinsed briefly. Then, larvae can be boiled for 10 minutes (some people prefer 30 minutes) in salty or spiced water just like sea food. Once boiled, they can be added to other recipes or eaten as they are.

Like sea food, larvae may be deep-fried either plain (see Figure 8.10) or after being rolled in flour or dipped in batter. Deep-fat frying at 1500C for only 1 minute is sufficient (Hocking and Matsumura, 1960). After one minute, the larvae should be removed and briskly shaken and drained on a slope, and/or covered with absorbent material to eliminate some of the excess fat. Frying in butter results in uneven browning and more broken larvae.

 Frying bee larvae in oil.


Figure 8.10: Frying bee larvae in oil.

8.10.5 Dried larvae and adults

Larvae and adults may be sun-dried in a solar drier. They should be kept out of direct sunlight and protected from dust and insects. If the weather is not favourable for quick drying, the insects may be roasted carefully to avoid deterioration. After drying, they may be chopped or ground to a powder. The powder may be used to enrich other meals or flours. If used as an additive to animal feed, they can be added whole. The flavour of these meals is not affected if the insects are used in moderate quantities.

8.10.6 Basic general recipes

The basic recipes and many of the following ones are adapted from Taylor and Carter's "Entertaining with Insects " (1976). Some modifications have been included to adjust the recipes for more general use and for readily-available ingredients. Once frozen, smoked, dry-roasted, solar-dried, or made into a flour, insects can be incorporated into basically any other food dish. In any of the dried forms, including the flour, they can also be readily marketed.

Dry roasted larvae or adults

Spread the cleaned, fresh or frozen insects on paper towels (not newspapers) on a cookie sheet. Bake at 700 - 940C for 1-2 hours until the desired state of dryness is obtained. Check the dryness by attempting to crush the insects with a spoon.

Alternatively, the insects can be roasted in a large frying-pan, pot or metal sheet over medium heat. If their temperature exceeds 1000C they will caramelize. They should be stirred frequently to prevent them from burning. A coffee roaster could probably be used. Drying larvae by smoking did not produce a good, smoky flavour.

Bee flour

Bees should be dry-roasted or sun-dried as above and reduced (in an electric blender) to a fine powder. For those relying on manual skills, grind or pound until all insects are reduced to a fine powder. This powder can be further enriched with equally fine ground dry pollen pellets or can be mixed directly with any other flour, dough, bread, vegetable dish or soup. It thus remains unnoticeable by taste and texture, but enriches the diet. If kept dry and packed immediately in plastic bags, it should keep fresh long enough for local marketing and consumption. Cold storage is recommended and customers should be alerted to this and its short shelf-life. Do not process or package bee flour during the rainy season since the flour cannot be kept dry enough.

Basic cooked insects

1 cup Cleaned bees (adults or larvae)
2 cups Water
1 teaspoon Salt
2 dashes Pepper
1 tablespoon Butter
teaspoon Sage
2 table spoons Onions, finely chopped

Quickly brown the onions in the butter or other available fat or oil. Then add all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until tender. The sage can be replaced with other spices such as red peppers (chili peppers), laurel, thyme, rosemary or curry, according to local taste. For immediate consumption, boiling for 5 to 10 minutes is sufficient.

Bee stew

Prepare your favourite soup or stew with vegetables and, instead of meat, add a similar or slightly smaller quantity of whole or crushed insects. The cooking time does not need to be as long as with meat. Only boil until the vegetables have cooked, because the insects will be boiled sufficiently after 10 minutes. If you miss the familiar flavour of meat, add some animal fat or marrow bones - they do not require extra cooking time.

Garlic butter fried bees

cup Butter or cooking oil
6 cloves Garlic
1 cup Cleaned bees (larvae)

Heat the oil or butter over low heat in a frying-pan or pot. Slowly fry the garlic so that in about 5 minutes it is slightly brown. Add the insects and continue frying at the same temperature for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not overheat or the garlic will burn.

The insects can then be included in rotis and tacos, used as condiments with rice and tortillas or be offered as appetizers (see Figure 8.11). If drained well, they can be served as snacks at any time or be packaged like nuts.

Honeybee larvae prepared as appetizer in three different ways (from left to right): fried with garlic, boiled  and fried in oil after covering with flour.

Figure 8.11 : Honeybee larvae prepared as appetizer in three different ways (from left to right): fried with garlic, boiled and fried in oil after covering with flour.

Insect marinade

A marinade can be prepared from a variety of ingredients to give the insects a stronger and spicier flavour and/or to preserve them for longer.

A very simple but tasty marinade is made of:

1 Large clove of garlic, crushed or minced
1 Dried red pepper (chili pepper) crushed or minced
2 tablesp Fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 to 1.5 cup liquid The liquid may be soy sauce with a little sake (rice wine) or grape wine, salt and lemon juice, or other strongly flavoured juices or extracts with salt.
2 table spoons Onions, finely chopped

Once all the ingredients are combined, cover 1 cup of insects with the marinade and leave it for several hours. The process can be accelerated by simmering the mix for 20 to 30 minutes over low heat.

To pickle or preserve the insects, use a very thick soy sauce or, prepare a spicy and/or flavoured vinegar mixture with herbs and spices. Add the raw or cooked insects. Pickling arvae in vinegar or brandly alone does not produce a pleasant flavour. For long-term storage, some recipes recommend boiling after marination, others only use marination. Each region has its own way of pickling vegetables or meats, which can also be applied to insects. When adding large quantities of insects ensure the vinegar is concentrated enough and is not excessively diluted by water from the insects blood. Drain the vinegar after two days and replace it with fresh marinade. Chutney is a form of pickling where insects can be added, or used to replace one of the other ingredients.

8.10.7 Bee mango chutney

Principal ingredients:

15 Medium size, peeled chopped mangoes
8 Medium size, chopped papayas
1-2 cups Boiled bee larvae, chopped
To be mixed with:
3 tablespoons Chopped ginger candied if possible
cup Chopped citron or other candied fruit
cup Chopped candied lemon peel or cup chopped, preserved kumquats
Spice bag:
2 Cinnamon sticks
30 Whole cloves
teaspoon Coriander seeds
Sweet vinegar:
6 cups Sugar
4 cups Cider vinegar

Heat the sweet vinegar to boiling, add the other ingredients including the spice bag and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the spice bag and pour the boiling mixture into clean, sterilized jars, seal and continue heating for another 15 minutes in a water bath. when filling the jars leave a few centimetres of empty space between the chutney and the lid.

Use vinegar of at least 5-6% acetic acid. Other spices such as red peppers, turmeric or curry may be added. When using other vegetables like tomatoes, apples or onions, simmer them first for hour in an equal volume of sweet vinegar.

8.10.8 Bee chapattis

1 cups Flour (all-purpose, white or whole grain from wheat or other grains)
cup Bee flour (see recipes in 8.10.6)
1 cups Water
q.s. Salt, to taste
q.s. Melted butter, lard or oil

Mix water and flours until a stiff dough is obtained. Add the salt. Knead the dough until it is smooth. Pinch off pieces of dough and mould into balls of about 4-5 cm in diameter. Roll each ball in flour and place it on a flour-covered board. Flatten the balls to approximately 5-6 mm thickness. Heat a large non-greased frying-pan. Place a flattened ball in the pan and fry for 2 minutes on each side. Remove the chapatti and apply a little melted butter or oil on each side and fry until dark brown spots begin to appear on the heated faces.

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