Making Whole Hive Mead By Boiling Bees Alive

© William Bostwick

We already know that bees are in trouble. From neonicotinoid insecticide exposure to seasonal shifts from climate change, our furry pollinator friends have enough challenges to face already.

Now they may have to add craft alcohol enthusiasts to their list of enemies.

It turns out that a few less squeamish foodies, like William Bostwick over at Food Republic, have been experimenting with making whole hive mead—a "historically accurate" process of honey harvesting and mead making that involves melting and crushing whole frames of honey, comb, bees and all into a vat of boiling water, and then fermenting the results. If Bostwick's description is anything to go by, it all sounds rather horrific:

When the water boiled, we carried it to the hive. We wanted to melt the wax and extract the honey without totally boiling it, which would ruin its flavor, a delicate cocktail of eucalyptus, sage, mint and rosemary. We opened the lid and the bees, stoked by mob rule and regicide, flared. One by one we pulled out frames black with barren brood comb or mottled milky white with wax-capped cells of honey, and all, all covered with angry bees. We dunked the frames in the pot. They sizzled. We squashed. Carcasses heaped the earth, our boots glistened with nectar and wax.

Given the fact that hardcore vegans have been debating whether regularly harvested honey is permissable for years, there will be many people—vegans and meat eaters alike (myself included)—who will be more than a little disturbed by the notion of crushing bees to make mead when no-kill harvesting methods are now readily available.

And while Bostwick seems convinced that his bees were doomed as winter approaches, I can't help thinking I would have given them a chance to prove me wrong. But then, incompetence killed my bees—so who am I to declare that killing a probably-doomed hive in a quest for flavor is any worse than accidental death when the end result is the same?

Either way, head over to Food Republic to check out the post on How to Make Whole Hive Mead. Given that it was written back in September, by my reckoning the results should be in on whether it was worth all the effort (and death).

Tags: Bees | Drinks | Insects | United States

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