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Honeydew Honey or Forest Honeys

Introduction

Contents

Honeydew honey or Forest honey is a type of honey made—not from blossom nectar—but from honeydew excreted by plant sucking insects such as aphids. It is usually produced from trees, both conifers and deciduous, although it may also produced from grasses and plants. The ancient Roman naturalist Pliny thought honeydew fell from the stars and this belief was held for centuries. It was as recent as the 1960s that some beekeepers believed that honeydew collected by bees was sweated out or exuded from trees and plants although it was determined by the French naturalist, Reaumur in 1740 to be produced by aphids. In fact, this strong-tasting, mineral-rich, savory honey is the result of a relationship between aphids and bees that is common throughout the world, yet unbeknownst to most.

Honeydew flow is often strong in late dry summers. It may be known generically as “Forest Honey” or “Tree Honey” but also by the name of the particular source plant, “Fir Honey”, “Pine Honey”, “Lime Tree Honey”, “Oak Honey” etc. So that even today many people believe this honey is created from sap secreted directly from the tree itself. This is not the case. Only about 1% of the time do plants exude a honeydew-like substance directly that bees will use, and this is usually as the result of an injury or shock to the plant.

Honeydew honey is highly appreciated in certain parts of the world by connoisseurs and honey lovers alike for its strong flavor and healthful properties. It is especially well known in European countries like Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Greece, and Turkey as well as New Zealand for beech where it generally commands a higher price. While honeydew is produced in North America, the honey is not particularly common. It was prized as White Cedar honey in California, made from honeydew of the Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) and by the scale insect, Margarodidae: Xylococcus. Also from Hawaii, honeydew was made by the sugar cane leaf-hopper (Perkinsiella saccharidica) and produced hundreds of tons of honeydew honey in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Although it was considered a lower quality “bakers honey,” it helped launch the honey production industry of Hawaii.

Characteristics of Honeydew or Forest Honey

Honeydew honey from different European countries, from Conifers (fir, spruce, pine), and deciduous (mostly different oak species) and Metcalfa pruinosa, share the following characteristics.

Color: Dark to very dark, honey colored, sometimes with green fluorescence.
Taste: Intensity: medium, woody and warm. Medium sweetness with weak acidity. No bitterness with a medium aroma. Medium persistence/aftertaste and sometimes astringent.
Aroma: Woody and warm.

Translations: French: Le miel de forêt or Les miellats; German: Waldhonig or Honigtau Honig; Italian: Miele di bosco or Miele di melata; Slovenian: Gozdni med or med iz mane; Turkish: Salgı balı; Spain: Miel de mielada or Miel Forestal

What is honeydew anyway?

Why do aphids eject honeydew in the first place? Normally waste products of insects or animals are not particularly appetizing except to dung beetles, fungus and bacteria. Yet honeydew is eaten by a wide variety of insects and animals, and by humans. It is so prized by ants they actually tend their ‘herds’ of aphids and protect them from predators to harvest their honeydew. Why don’t the aphids digest the honeydew as food for themselves, or is it created perhaps as an incentive for the ant’s protection?

Plant sap is largely composed of water and sugars with a small amount of amino acids. It turns out that while aphids use some of the sugars and other nutrients in the plant sap, they must process a large amount of sap to get usable amounts of proteins. Plant sap only contains about 1-2% of proteins. The rest is expelled and actually ejected away from the insect to land on leaves or needles, branches and the ground below. If an aphid-covered branch is suddenly jostled they will release their honeydew in a fine misty spray. It will then dry and in this form, when produced in enough quantity, it is traditionally collected and eaten by the Aborigines of Australia as well as Arabs. It is considered by some to be the “manna” described in the bible as the food used by the Israelites in the desert. Many animals and insects, including bees, collect this off the plant or tree itself and off the ground below. It would be very easy to believe this substance was exuded directly by the plant itself.

What is the difference between blossom honey and honeydew honey?

While the composition of honeydew honey varies by the type of insect and plant, just as the composition of blossom honey varies by the type of blossom, there are some common differences. In general, honeydew honey is higher in minerals and amino acids as well as higher molecular weight sugars (oligosaccharides) in particular, melezitose and raffinose. Oligosaccharides are prebiotics that have a beneficial effect on bacteria in the digestive system. It tends to be darker, less sweet, less acidic and resists crystallization when compared to honey. Honeydew honey has higher electrical conductivity and ash content and tends to remain liquid and resist crystallization because of high fructose and low glucose levels, as well as a low glucose to water ratio. There has been some research that indicates that honeydew honey also has higher than average antibiotic properties due to higher levels of Glucose Oxidase which leads to the production of Hydrogen Peroxide.

Typical types of honeydew honey

Next: USDA Honey Grading
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Further reading:
Aphids and white flies – bumblebee.org
Manna: Religious/Historical – Wikipedia

32 comments to Honeydew – Forest Honeys

  • Dear Sir/Madam.

    Good day….

    I found your contact details from internet.and have known that you have honey dew honey.
    So please send us price,specification,picture and inform us about minimum order quantity?

    And we hope to start long business relationship with your company.

    Note: packaging required 30kg or 35kg in bulk.
    And we need dark black honey dew honey.

    Awaiting for your kind reply….

    With Thanks
    Fazal Amin

  • HT

    I am sorry Fazal, but I don’t sell honey, I only write about it! Perhaps someone will respond.

  • Garth Free

    Dear Honey Traveller,

    I am along time producer of honey dew honey in New Zealand.
    I must say I am impressed with your very complete discription of honey dew and it’s production.

    I would like to help Fazal Amin with a supply of dark honey dew.

    Kindest Regards,

    Garth Free

  • necmi

    salgı üretimi için ağaç ya da ormanlara böcek transplantasyonu yapılmakta mıdır?

    trees or forests for the production of secretory Is insect transplantation done?

  • Hi Necmi:

    If I understand you correctly, you are asking if sap-producing insects (such as aphids) are ever moved into forests for the purpose of producing sap. I have not heard of this, but it is an interesting idea.

    …Scott

  • Koi Esteen

    Dear All We want to buy dark black honeydew honey if any one have please provide us price, specification, picture of honeydew honey, f/g ratio? Packaging required by 25kg or 30kg food grade bulk…E-mail: pure_honey@gardener.com

  • Stany

    Hi Scott,
    What a great web-site! Thank you for the detailed work, I really enjoy going thru the pages.
    I am very happy you have mentioned also Bulgaria. Just want to add that we call our honeydew ´manov med´. Around 75% procent of our honeyew is concentrated in Strandza mountain one of Europe’s richest and most diverse ecosystems and a big part protected area.The Strandza mountain holds not only oak, but also beech-tree formations with preserved original composition and diversity which are very rare in Europe.
    Kind regards,
    Stany

  • Mark Pogatti

    Hello Scott,

    Can you pls explain what is the difference between propolis and Honeydew honey ? are they alike ?
    As I know proplis is collected by bees from trees branches and buds and has a dark color .

    Thanks.

  • Hi Mark:

    Good question, they both seem to be gathered from trees, but they are quite different.

    Propolis is created by bees to make their nest cavity watertight or to block and reduce the size of the openings to their hive. It is also used to coat and mummify the corpses of dead animals inside the hive (bees and predators) that bees can not remove. It is resinous at first, then hardens over time. The fascinating thing about propolis is that the composition and color varies by the materials locally available to bees at the time. It is made up of resinous material from trees and flowers as well as wax, pollen and enzymes. It is purported to have a wide range of healthful benefits along with antibacterial and antiviral properties. Since it varies by composition so widely, it has defied creation of an exact analysis.

    On the the other hand, Honeydew Honey, created by the excretions of sap-sucking insects, is used by bees as regular, nectar-based honey is used. That is as food, for when external food sources decline, such as in winter or seasonally in the tropics from drought or rain.

    …Scott

  • Great page, very informative

    Cheers Paul

  • If you are interested check out my web page http://www.twenty-twenty-imports.com , it is all in

    Japanese, I sell Monofloral honey from New Zealand , there are types Pohutukawa, Rewarewa, Manuka, and Kamahi I am also selling New Zealand Honeydew

    Paul

  • Hi Stany:

    I hope to try more honey from Bulgaria, but buying it online is difficult. I guess I’ll just have to visit! 🙂 Thanks for the additional info.

    …Scott

  • Pat Sheets

    I am a pastor/missionary and hobby beekeeper. One area I visit is the area around Opole, Poland. I just returned from there and brought with me a jar of “spadziowy miod”. First time I’ve had it. Thanks for your info. Also, in the area is the town of Kluczbork, home of Jan Zierzon, one of the fathers of modern beekeeping. I was able to visit the beekeeping museum there. I made some videos if you are interested, they are on youtube (my channel is “pzbeez1”).

  • Thanh Mai

    Hi Scott.

    Thank for your website about honey. I find very useful and detailed information from it.

    I really love honey and using it everyday. I mixed honey, lemond and warm water in the morning when I wake up and before I go to sleep. It is very good for my health.

    I started using Manuka honey from New Zealand 2 months ago. Can you tell me more about Manuka honey?. And the best way to use honey?

    Many thanks

  • Hi Pat!

    What a great find! If you could provide a short introduction, I would love to post links to your videos.

    …Scott

  • Antoniya St

    Hi,to all ,very nice website.
    To all of you who are interested of these forum and to all whom are interested of the product named Honeydew Honey,we are plesent Eupore company,orgin Bulgaria, base in London we are produce proper Bulgarian Honeydew Honey.
    Any one interested to buy small or large quantities,can contact us via e-mail tonq21@yahoo.com or 07584255053.

    Hi Scott,you dont need to go to Bulgaria to try in now as you can get it from hire,but still if you wish to enjoy good time you must visit it.
    Regards

  • Antoniya St

    Hi,to everyone it the blog ,is nice to see to many people who are interested and looking for real,dark honeydew honey.
    If anyone wish contact me on tonq21@yahoo.com,as i am a supplier for bulgarian honeydew honey,Iam base in London.

  • Hi Antoniya:

    Thank you for the invitation! The next time I am in Bulgaria I will let you know! I would love to meet you, see your country, your honey producing operation.

    …Scott

  • Ohm

    I just took few spoonful of honeydew that I brought from high altitutes but I am felling like I am high now, just smiliar as having marijauna. Do some honeydew intoxciates and if yes is it bad

  • My name is kebede and I want ask question about honey dew honey.
    Do honeybees store both nectar and honey dew in the same comb (cell?) Means are they mixing both nectar and honey dew?

    I thank you very in advance for your response

  • Hi Kebede:

    Good question. It is a fact that honey bees tend to visit the same plants when they are collecting nectar, but this is generally because they are blooming at the same time. As a side note, this happens to be beneficial for the pollination of these same flowers as the bees transfer pollen between plants of the same species. However they may collect nectar from many plants at the same time, mixing them in their crops or “honey stomachs”. This includes honeydew. So the first step of mixing happens here. The next step happens in the hive. When bees arrive with their load of nectar they pass it to other workers who, after removing much of the moisture, put it in a honey cell. They just start filling cells based on what cell is close, clean and open. When the cell is filled, it is left uncapped to further evaporate water. When it is ‘ripe’ it is capped. But the bees do not segregate the nectar of different plants, including honey dew and nectar, into separate cells. It all goes together.

    However, you can get cells filled with mainly honeydew honey if the bees are only collecting honey dew which often happens with hives located in, or close to a forest and aphids are producing prodigious amounts of honeydew. This is the case for nectar too. This is how we get single flower or monofloral honey.

    Do you have a good honey industry in Ethiopia? What are the main types of honey?

    …Scott

  • Hi Ohm:

    What country and region did you buy the honey? Was it foamy? Some honey does intoxicate, but it is very rare. If can tell a little more about where you got it I may be able to give you some ideas.

    …SCott

  • Dave Johnson

    I Keep bees in the West Kootenay area of British Columbia Canada.
    I have experienced honey dew honey on a few occasions.
    The first time was several years ago where we found the honey dew was crystalizing in the comb only days after it had been brought into the hive. Once the bees stopped harvesting this material, they continued to bring in very dark honey which was stored in an arch below the crystalized material. The following winter, we lost virtually all of our hives to a dysentary which made a horrible mess of the hives. Obviously, honey dew honey is not a desirable winter feed for the bees as they cannot digest the particulate matter in the honey dew.
    This past summer 2013 we produced the darkest and most dense honey since my previous experience with honey dew.
    The honey has a wonderful rich flavour and has been very popular with our customers. Especially the customers of European descent.
    However, we are experiencing dysentary in some of our hives (not all of them) and we have lost colonys I am sure due to the honey. WE have had nosema tests done which are negative so I have to believe is is honey dew.
    Conclusion: Honey dew has an unpleasant consequence if it is not recognized soon enough prior to hives going into winter. Especially in our area where bee flight is limited from November to February or March.
    Dave

  • Ohm

    hi scot, i brought this forest honey while travelling to nepal. It was brought from high altitude mountains of nepal and tibet. Many people beleived that it has strong medical properties since it is made on high altitude and bees are assumed to have many herbal flowers as well while making it. But once you take two spoonful of it, within an hour, you gets a high sensation like alcoholic or marijauna or similar

  • Hi Ohm:

    Well, I must admit that while I get a pretty good sensation from eating honey, it doesn’t pack such a strong wallop as alcohol or marijuana. 🙂 I don’t know why this would happen with your forest honey. There are a few nectefarious plants that can create these sensations, such as rhododendron, possibly one of these. If the honey had a reddish color, then perhaps it was the honey referred to here, Honey Hunting Nepal. Definitely something I would consider trying the next time I am passing through Nepal.

    …Scott

  • Hi Dave:

    Interesting observations! Honey dew definitely crystallizes once it looses moisture, but honey dew honey resists crystallization strongly.

    Can you clarify what you said about “… continued to bring in very dark honey…” I don’t understand where they would get this as they need to create honey themselves, not bring it in.

    Because honey dew honey is high in ash and indigestible sugars, it can be poor winter food for bees, and can lead to dysentery.

    It is worth noting that bee dysentery is not a disease, nor can it be transmitted to humans. It is a digesting problem that leads to diarrhea. However as you wisely tested, diarrhea can be a associated with infection by a bee parasite called Nosema which can lead to the death of bees. Nosema has no direct impact on, nor is it dangerous to humans.

    While an important consideration for bee management, honey dew honey is perfectly safe for humans and is enjoyed world-wide for its healthful properties and strong, delicious taste.

    …Scott

  • Ohm

    Thanks Scott, yes it is red in color.. thanks for providing the website link. Its good

  • Hi Scott:

    Thanks for a terrific blog for honey lovers!
    I’ve been a beekeeper and honey aficionado for 45 years, and our family has been packing and marketing honey since 1979. We specialize in honeys from across the US, and some from off shore.
    We’d be happy to hear from anyone that can supply interesting honeys in buckets or drums.

    Our web site is ZSpecialtyfood.com

    Three of our honeys are featured in the April issue of Sunset Magazine.

    Regarding honey dew: we used to see it (oak, fir and cedar) almost every year in N. California but rarely of late. Same w/ Eucalyptus.

    We did just receive some Oregon Maple Honey!
    (No, not honey dew)

    And, have you tasted Meadowfoam?

  • Hi Ishai:

    Nice to hear from you! I see you have a nice selection of honey varietals this spring, including Coffee Blossom, Snowberry, Buckeye and Pomegranate. The Buckeye is interesting. Is there a story behind it?

    I have tried Meadowfoam honey. The first time was quite a pleasant surprise! I tasted marshmallows quite distinctly!

    Thanks for the information about honeydew honey here in the U.S.A.! I have heard very little, as it is not well known. Please let me know if/when you hear of honeydew honeys for sale.

    The maple honey is rare as the trees usually blossom early in the spring when bees are not at their strongest numbers.

    I hope we continue to see your selection of unique honeys grow!

    …Scott

  • Sami Darwish

    I just came back from a trip to Bulgaria and they have one of the best “Manov Honey” in the World. If you are interested in purchasing honey in large quantities I suggest do some research on Bulgarian Honey. It is also somewhat cheaper compared to other countries I have been too.

  • Hafizullah Khan

    Hi Scott

    Here in Pakistan, the common perception of consumers is that the honey produced by small bee (wild) is better quality than farmed honey. Is it true? Isnt it actually about the source of nectare to decide the quality. Further, is the apis dorsta or apis florea special kind to work in forests for dew honey?

  • Hi Hafizullah:

    Great quesitons!

    I would agree that in many situations, wild honey is better than farmed honey. But I also believe that farmed honey can be as good as or better than wild honey. It entirely depends upon the farming methods. To compare wild honey to farmed honey, I am going to presume wild honey is from bees that made their own hive (in a hollow tree for instance) and are not managed in any way by humans. Second, they have chosen a geographical spot that is not within range of a polluting source (such as a factory or food processing plant that uses some sugar based ingredient). Thirdly, the bees have been around for many generations in that area, so that we can assume the nectar sources are not contaminated in any long term, harmful way to the bees and contain enough variety that the bees get a balanced and healthy nutritional diet. And finally that the wild honey is not processed in any way–literally comes straight from the comb.

    If a farmed honey reproduces these conditions then it will be just as good as wild honey. Both in taste and nutritional/therapeutic value. In other words, the apiarist provides a hive container that is free of all chemicals and wax comb backing, is not within range of polluted nectar/food sources, has been sustained in an area for many generations, uses locally bred queens and extracts the honey with only coarse straining and no heat or additives.

    For your second question concerning honeydew honey, I have not read anything about one species of bee being better for producing honeydew honey than another. They can all utilize honey dew (aphid excretions), to produce ‘forest’ or ‘honey dew’ honey.

    …Scott

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