I recently bought some honeydew honey, also called forest honey, and mused about its origin.
First of all a plant makes sugars. An everyday miracle which probably evolved more than 3.4 billion years ago.
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.
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).
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!🤣.
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 International, 119, 44-66.