Fascinating Honey Tales: Honeydew and Pine Honey

m&m honeycomb Delicious Blue Honey?

A few years ago there was a story that surfaced online about honeybees gathering the sugar water from an M&M factory and making multicolored honey. It was passed around the office here for a while and ended up on more than one computer as the background. The colors were impressive but the most interesting part of the story to me was that the bees could use the candies sugar and apparently its artificial color in place of flower nectar. I had never given it much thought really but I went back to examine why bees gather nectar from flowers in the first place.

Flowers produce nectar to supply pollinators with an incentive for pollination. Pollinators must brush against the flower to gather the nectar, thereby gathering pollen in the process and transferring it to other flowers, aiding the process of pollination. This is the way that these plants reproduce. Nectar itself is a sugar-rich liquid that contains all 20 of the 22 amino acids found in protein molecules. It is the best source of food for honeybees and they work tirelessly to gather it.

Durring the winter and spring months, certain beekeepers will feed their bees sugar water  or honey water to make up for the lack of flowering plants delivering nectar to the colony. This is the bit that I was looking for; honeybees do not actually need nectar constantly in order to survive. They can use other sources of sugar to make honey. Now, not all of these sources lead to honey that humans would like to ingest. In the case of the M&M honey, it was poisonous. The M&M honey story got me thinking about honeybees collecting food from non-plant sources, which led to my discovery of honeydew and pine honey, the topic of today's fascinating honey tale!

aphids feeding on honewdew Aphids feeding on honeydew.

Let's begin with the honeydew. Honeydew is a sugary liquid that is produced by aphids when they feed on plant sap or phloem. The aphid's tap into the plants sugary phloem (liquid inside the plants vascular system) with a long, straw-like proboscis. Honeydew is actually the sugary waste product produced by the aphid after feeding on plant phloem.  It falls to the forest floor or onto leaves near by. Certain types of moths, bees and birds will then gather the honeydew. Honeybees use it to create honeydew honey, which is much darker in color and stronger in flavor than honey from nectar. It is less sweet and much more aromatic than typical honey and it commands a high price in certain parts of the world. In the US, we rarely see honeydew honey. However it is much more abundant in Europe.

Pine honey is a style of honeydew honey commonly found in the Middle East and Greece, however it can be found in Germany and Norway as well. Pine honey is produced when honey bees collect honeydew from insects that live on the sap or phloem of certain species of pine trees. Also called "forest honey" or "manna honey", it is generally much more dense than nectar honeys given its lower water content. This makes sure that, like Tupelo honey, it will rarely crystalize.

Ted in bee garden Ted's always happy to talk about honeybees!

A customer during a Bee Garden Tour recently let me try some pine honey. I will say that I typically enjoy darker, smokey honeys like Palmetto or Buckwheat. To me, pine honey was really strong and almost too much for me. Everybody is a bit different I suppose. Although Savannah Bee does not sell honeydew Honey or Pine Honey, as a honey lover, I would encourage you to try as many types of honey as you possibly can. There are thousands of flavors out there and many are quite interesting, as are the tales behind each flavor. The Savannah Bee Company has honey from all over the United States as well as some from other countries. When you visit Savannah Bee don't forget to take the free honey tour and taste over 12 different varieties of honey. Check out the short video below where Savannah Bee owner Ted Dennard describes our unique Everyday Honeys. It would be worth a trip to Savannah or Charleston for honey alone in my opinion. I hope to see you there!

Submitted By: Usher Gay