The wasp and the bee are like long lost brothers. They may not sound alike or look precisely the same, but they share one common characteristic - they both love honey.
Over the years, the bee has gotten most of the fame for producing that sweet liquid we find on the aisle shelves, while the wasp remains the underdog in the whole mix. But contrary to popular belief, most bees do not produce honey throughout their cycles. Like the aggressive wasp, many spend their lives in solitude.
In reality, the wasp and the bee have a lot more in common than meets the eye. Consider, for example, the fact that some wasps enjoy feasting on fruits and the sweet syrup of their blossoms just as much as bees do.
Yet, with hardly any media coverage on the wasp in the honey-making industry, it’s no surprise that this raises quite a few questions. For starters...
Although they are mainly carnivorous insects, the wasps also contribute to pollination; and at the same time, they will often stop to take a sip of nectar. However, this is done on occasion and does not come close to the regularity of the bees' schedule.
Even when the wasps decide to visit a blossom, their anatomical structure does not allow them to extract nectar and pollen so easily. Generally, they do not have much of a furry base for enough pollen to stick onto their bodies.
The wasp honey created is just as pure and exotic as any bee by-product, but it is twice as hard to find on the market. Why?
The bee is noted to be a strictly vegetarian insect. Its main diet consists of natural products - mainly nectar. Although honeybees and bumblebees are the ones who put in the effort to generate honey, the output will always be far greater than that of the predaceous wasp at the end of the day.
The fact that only specific wasps make honey when flowers are in bloom also makes sense of the scarcity of their syrup on the market.
The majority of adult wasps will not take home the nectar that they consume. Instead, it is used as an optional energy source. This is typical of varieties like the Bald-faced hornet and Yellowjacket.
One of the most popular species to go the full mile and create honey is the Mexican Honey Wasp. Its name alone gives it way. Firstly, the variety originates from the more Hispanic countries of the American continent.
It can be found more commonly buzzing around the regions between Texas and Panama just before the winter. This says that in Central America, wasp honey is not as rare as in other parts of the world.
Between the bee and the wasp, honey goes through the same process of production. The nectar is regurgitated by the insects and then fanned out to evaporate most of its water content until a somewhat thick consistency is achieved.
The difference, however, lies in storage. While the bees have their intricately designed waxed honeycombs to store their sweet syrup, wasps are more hard-backed and their colonies usually survive within paper nests.
Like the bee, the stored honey is used to feed both adults and larvae within the population.
Knowing from which nests to extract honey is extremely important. In some cases, individual wasps produce honey containing high doses of atropine - a chemical known to be poisonous to humans if taken without proper directives.
Some kinds of wasp honey are entirely safe to consume by humans, especially those made from the genus (scientific classification) Brachygastra. Studies from Texas's state show that there are approximately 12 different species of this type of honey-producing wasp.
In Central America, the comb filled with honey and individual wasps is prepared as a dish.
So, in short: Yes, wasp honey is edible. History proves that this practice is not new to the 21st century, either. It is not unusual for people in certain countries within and surrounding the United Kingdom to harvest small quantities of this honey from the wasp nests for personal use.
The only issue is that because of the low output from these insects, it is highly unlikely to find enough honey for mass production or packaging.
You might get lucky ever to taste it, but chances are it won’t be from a commercially branded jar. Interestingly, the wasp honey has a flavor very similar to that of the honey from bees.
The problem of scarcity in wasp honey is also a bit trivial. Even within their ecosystems, wasps are often known to steal honey from beehives to feed themselves. That’s evident proof of its lack of availability in nests.
Wasp honey might be edible, but it is not as beneficial as that of bees. This is primarily because not many natural compounds get trapped within the lattice of the honeycomb as with that of the beehives.
Pollen, which is one of the main sources of nutrients and antioxidants in regular honey, is found in much lower quantities in the honey from wasps. Not to say that it doesn’t have any nutritional value, but wasp honey makes a better bet at being a natural source of sugar than a high-grade dietary supplement.
Wasps may not have been on your bucket list for trying out new types of honey, but the experience is worth the effort.
Still, not much is known about the wasp and its honey collecting cycle because of its lack of popularity. But in time, anything is possible.
Already had a run with wasp honey? Go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments below.