What Is Honeydew Honey?

Megan Shoop

Honeydew honey is a variety of honey that is much darker and often more bitter than traditional floral honey. Bees that make this honey gather sugary secretions from trees and other insects instead of flowers, resulting in a much different product. This kind of honey is a delicacy in some countries, and purposely cultivated by some beekeepers. These keepers must take special care of their bees because honeydew honey doesn’t contain all the same nutrients as flower honey. This darker, richer honey is also the subject of mythology and folklore in many countries.

Honeydew honey.
Honeydew honey.

When bees produce honeydew honey, they often harvest the sweet secretions of aphids and sappy emissions from trees, including pine and beech. Scale-variety insects, like aphids, discharge nectar-like substances when they feed to digest the leaves and bark that make up their food. Bee colonies may resort to harvesting sap and insect discharges when flowers are not readily available or when they’re competing with other colonies for nectar.

A honey bee.
A honey bee.

Some beekeepers purposely place their hives in areas rich in trees and scale insects, forcing their bees to feed on things other than flowers. In Australia, Greece, and parts of Europe and the United States, honeydew honey is considered a delicacy and can be sold for higher prices than floral honey. Beekeepers that produce it must take deliberate care of their bees. This dark, often bitter, honey does not contain the same balance of nutrients and protein as floral honey, therefore bees feeding solely on tree sap and insect secretions require food supplements to survive for more than one season.

In the realm of human health, honeydew honey often shares the same benefits as floral honey. It is typically antibacterial, especially in raw form, and may help soothe sore throats and cold symptoms. Some research also suggests that raw versions of this honey may be higher in antioxidants than floral honey. Antioxidants typically promote health on a cellular level, helping to expel waste from the body.

In cooking, honeydew honey is not only a substitute for floral honey, but other sweeteners as well. Those that enjoy natural sweeteners may use this honey in place of molasses, maple syrup, and agave nectar. Its dark bitterness can add a sharp flavor to baked goods and sweet entrees that some people find pleasant.

Norse and Greek mythology both revere honeydew honey as a food of the gods. It is frequently mentioned in stories of strength and courage. In these tales, it is also sometimes used as a restorative for dying heroes and demi-gods. Today, both Greece and Germany still hold honeydew honey in high regard.

Honeydew honey bees often feed on plants other than flowers.
Honeydew honey bees often feed on plants other than flowers.

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