Could honey bee brood (larvae and pupae) graduate from a niche delicacy to a more widely eaten food of the future?
A new study by researchers from the University of Copenhagen, just published in the Journal of Apicultural Research, suggests that honey bee brood could indeed represent what they term a "realistic addition to a more sustainable food industry" in a world that, by 2050, could be home to more than 9 billion people.
"The near omnipresence of honey bees around the world and [their] long-documented relationship with man could potentially accelerate the acceptance of insects as a foodstuff," the scientists write. They note that places as far-flung as Mexico, Thailand, Australia, and China already consume honey bee brood as a delicacy, the substance prized for its nutritional value – they're rich in protein – and sweet taste.
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Honey bees, though, are key pollinators, vital to the global food supply. In recent times, they have come under pressure from conditions such as colony collapse disorder and other threats that include insecticides and the parasitic Varroa mite. Attacks by the latter can take out an entire hive if the infestation is large enough.
Does it make sense to view such a key and troubled insect as a direct food supplier?
The researchers say beekeepers today are already accustomed to removing drone brood from their hives, as a hedge against Varroa mite infestations. (The mites prefer honey bee drones to workers and reproduce more successfully with them.)
"This practice makes honey bee drone brood a by-product, producing an abundant source of farmed insects with untapped potential," the scientists write.
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