How to process raw drone larvae into value added products


Drones are male honey bees and their primary role is to mate with an infertile queen. The value of drone larvae as a nutritional supplement has been already proven and drone larvae have been used as food for thousands of years by the most ancient civilizations. Drone larvae can also be used as food for animals as they are very rich in nutrients.  Drone larvae therefore offer the opportunity to the beekeeper to generate extra income from the extraction and processing of drone larvae and the consumption of drone larvae can contribute to improved health and well-being.  This technology explains how to process drone larvae into value added products.


1.     Preserving unprocessed drone larvae:

·       Fresh raw larvae:

Drone larvae should be kept alive as long as possible in the combs inside the hive.  See the technology “How to collect drone larvae from the hive” to learn how to collect drone larvae from the hive. Once collected, drone larvae need to be processed or eaten immediately.

·       Refrigerated larvae:

If larvae are refrigerated immediately after removing them from the hive, they should be processed (freezing, drying, boiling or frying) within 24 hours after collection of larvae to avoid any spoilage since insect proteins decay much faster than those of beef, chicken, lamb or pork. In hot and humid climates, the larvae should be processed in less than 6 hours.

·       Frozen fresh larvae:

One way to kill drone larvae is by freezing them. Drone larvae can be frozen inside or outside the combs. If you freeze drone larvae inside the combs you can remove them from the combs when you want to process them (see the technology “How to collect drone larvae from the hive”). Before processing the larvae, rinse them briefly in fresh, clean water (see Picture 1).  It is best to process the drone larvae while still frozen.

Where no refrigeration is available, processing will have to be started immediately after collection. Cooked larvae can then be preserved by freezing.  However, if no freezer or refrigerator is available, the boiled larvae should be consumed within a day. Fried larvae will keep a little longer, but should be eaten as soon as possible.

Drone larvae can also be eaten raw (fresh or frozen) alone or with other raw food like in salads for example.

Picture 1: Bee larvae in a strainer for rinsing (FAO).

2.    Processing drone larvae for consumption:

2.1 Raw, 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. However, for chewing larvae in combs, it is advisable to choose the whiter or newer combs.

If the skin of larvae is 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.

If the skin of drone larvae is not intact after collection the best is to make a “juice” and after filtration use it with sauces or in drinks.

Like sea food, larvae may be deep-fried either plain (Picture 2) or after being rolled in flour or dipped in batter. Deep-fat frying at 1500C for only 1 minute is sufficient. 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. The best oil/fat for frying is coconut oil because of its high resistance to oxidation at high temperatures. For this reason, coconut oil is the perfect oil for high-heat cooking methods like frying.

Picture 2: Frying bee larvae in oil (FAO).

2.2 Dried larvae

Larvae may be sun-dried in a solar drier. They should be kept out of direct sunlight and protected from dust and insects. 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.

2.3 Dry roasted larvae

Spread the cleaned, fresh or frozen larvae on clean paper towels. Bake at 70° - 940C for 1-2 hours until the right dryness is obtained. Check the dryness by attempting to crush the insects with a spoon.

Alternatively, the dry larvae can be roasted in a large frying-pan, without any oil or fat, 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.

2.4 Drone larvae flour

Larvae should be dry-roasted or sun-dried first as described above and then reduced to a fine powder. This can be done by using an electric blender or by grinding or pounding them until all drone larvae are reduced to a fine powder. This powder can be further enriched with equally finely grounded 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 the short shelf-life of the processed drone larvae. Do not process or package larvae flour during the rainy season since the flour cannot be kept dry enough.

Picture 3: Drone larvae prepared as appetizer in three different ways (from left to right): fried with garlic, boiled and fried in oil after covering with flour (FAO).

Basic general recipes:

Once frozen, solar-dried, or made into a flour, drone larvae can be incorporated into basically any other food dish. In any of the dried forms, including the flour, they can also be readily marketed.

Further reading

Value added products of the beehive:

This technology is extracted from the publication “Value added products of the beehive” ( and compiled and completed by Antonio Couto.

Created date

Fri, 26/08/2016 - 14:37


Animal Production and Health Division (Animal Nutrition) in FAO

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