Honeydew honey

I recently bought some honeydew honey, also called forest honey, and mused about its origin.

Organic Black honey from Oak forest honeydew collected in Bulgarian mountains

First of all a plant makes sugars. An everyday miracle which probably evolved more than 3.4 billion years ago.

Photosynthesis
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/55/Photosynthesis_en.svg/2048px-Photosynthesis_en.svg.png

The photosynthates produced in the leaves – including the sugar sucrose – are translocated in specialised phloem tissues. Aphids, and other sap-sucking insects, plug into this food stream and the sugary, high-pressure liquid is forced out of the anus of the aphid. Some caterpillars, and the plants themselves (i.e. nectar-producing trees), can also produce honeydew.

Sycamore aphids on the underside of a leaf.
Photo by Raymond JC Cannon

Some bumblebees feed opportunistically on the sugar-rich honeydew – even when there may be plenty of bee-friendly flowers about – which provides them with carbohydrates, in a similar way to nectar. They mop up the honeydew using their long tongues (below).

Early bumblebee with tongue extended.
Photo by Raymond JC Cannon

Honeydew honey is usually ‘polyfloral’, meaning that it comprises honeydew obtained from a variety of different plants with no single species making up more than 10% of the total. Honeydew honey varies considerably in flavour, colour, sweetness and consistency, but is often quite dark (see below), because of the presence of phenolic compounds from tree sap (see Seraglio et al., 2019).

This type of honey is reportedly far richer in minerals, amino acids, sucrose and fructose than ordinary blossom honey. It is described as a ‘nutritious elixir with limitless health benefits’, which I am waiting to kick in!🤣.

Some of my honeydew honey being guarded by two ants (these little models were made in Thailand!)

Reference

Seraglio, S. K. T., Silva, B., Bergamo, G., Brugnerotto, P., Gonzaga, L. V., Fett, R., & Costa, A. C. O. (2019). An overview of physicochemical characteristics and health-promoting properties of honeydew honey. Food Research International119, 44-66.

2 comments

  1. As far as I know, the oak honeydew honey you’ve got here is a bit different. This honeydew is not excreted by aphids but comes from the acorns themselves. They release it in order to seal the channels the acorn weevil (Curculio glandium) chewed into the acorns to deposit its eggs. Anyway, enjoy your honey. 🍯🐝😊

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s