Honeydew honey is made from sugary insect secretions harvested by honey bees. Though it resembles regular honey made from plant nectar – it is not exactly the same. It is often called forest honey – or tree honey. This is because bees collect the insect secretions from various plant surfaces such as leaves, stems and bark. A common misconception is that this particular product is related to a certain type of melon vine. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Honey bees gather plant nectar from millions of blooming plants and use it to make honey. Nectar from each plant is different and that is why we have different varieties or types of honey.
What is Honeydew Honey?
Honeydew honey is a unique product made by honey bees. It has a distinctive taste but the origin of this special honey is the big story.
Traditional floral honey is made from flower nectar. In fact, millions of flowers are visited so bees can make honey.
Honeydew honey has a different origin. Rather than plant nectar, bees collect the excretions of sap-sucking insects, such as aphids or scale insects, found on various plants and trees.
How It is Made
Worker honey bees collect resources the colony needs. Honeydew secretions are collected in the same way as plant nectar.
Using their proboscis, the sugary liquid is sucked up into the crop or honey stomach of the bee. There, it is mixed with enzymes and transported back to the hive.
Once in the hive, house bees add more enzymes, including a special one called -invertase. This helps convert the sugars to a more stable form. The water content is lowered and eventually honey is the result.
From the bees’ perspective, honeydew honey is made in the same way as traditional honey. And, it is often mixed together with floral honey when stored in the hive.
Where Bees Collect Honeydew
In some instances, honeydew can occur in such quantities that one might think the plant itself was producing the substance. However, it is those various sap sucking bugs who are the true producers.
Trees are the largest source-with pine, firs, beechwood, oak, willow, poplar and peach being most common. A few plants such as cotton or sunflowers that feed bees may be a resource.
Just like regular honey, testing for pure honey is difficult because bees gather from many different sources. This results in a variety of color and flavor due to the individual differences in the insects and sap involved.
Honeydew Honey vs Regular Honey
The collection of sweet liquid and conversion process is very much the same between honeydew honey and regular honey. But, this special product is not exactly the same.
There are chemical variations – it tends to be higher in ash content. It also lacks any of the pollen bees need as a protein source. These characteristics make it an undesirable food for Winter stores.
While bees can use honeydew honey – it can cause dysentery in colonies that are confined and unable to eliminate wastes.
Honeydew honey does contain more flavonoids and other polyphenols. These may contribute to better antioxidant properties.
As with floral honey, the flavor, sweetness and tendency to granulate varies based on the source used to make it.
Honeydew honey is very popular parts of Europe. It is valued for its flavor and possible health benefits in: Greece, Slovenia, Austria, Italy and Switzerland.
In Greece, Fir honeydew honey represents about 5% of the total production in the country.
Is honeydew honey better for you? Perhaps. It is generally higher in minerals and amino acids that floral honey. And some believe, it may have higher antibacterial properties due to higher levels of glucose oxidase.
No, honeydew honey is not the same as the sugary substance known as “honeydew” left by insects on plants. While they share the same name, honeydew honey is produced by bees from the collected excretions of sap-sucking insects, such as aphids or scale insects, whereas the sugary substance referred to as “honeydew” is the secretion itself produced by these insects.
In the same way that regular honey is not vomit, honeydew honey is not poop. It is a sugar deposit secreted on the leaves of plants.
Their simple digestive systems are simply expelling excess water and sugar. This is different than more advanced animals that express waste products.
Honeydew honey tends to have a strong flavor and aroma and be darker. In fact, the color of this honey can be very dark and sometimes have a greenish tint.
When produced in late Summer, it tends to be especially strong. Along with being less acidic, a woody taste or slight aftertaste is not uncommon. The sweetness level can be termed as medium – it is not overwhelmingly sweet.
Yes, honeydew honey can be slightly different nutritionally compared to other types of honey.
Chances are you have consumed some honeydew honey – even if you were not aware of doing so. It is not unusual to see bees working the oak leaves in mid-Summer during a nectar dearth in my region. And, everything gets mixed together back at the hive.
While some honeydew honey is produced in North America, it is more common in other parts of the world. For many honey connoisseurs – it is considered a premium taste experience.