What Bees Make Black Honey? (Not What You Think!)

what bees make black honey

Honey comes in a wide range of color variations, 

Some have a light golden straw color. Others have a vibrant dark amber appearance and are sometimes referred to as black honey. 

What bees make black honey, and how do they make this darker than usual honey?

What Kind Of Bees Make Black Honey

Regular honey bees make black honey, but nectar and pollen sources influence the honey’s color and flavor. Black honey is made from honeydew, a secretion from scale insects on pine trees. The bees collect the honeydew and use it instead of plant nectar to produce black honey. 

Everyone knows bees make honey, but do the same bees make all the color variations in honey? The divergence in honey color does not come from the bee species that made the honey but rather where the source materials were collected from to produce it 🙂

Black honey is the common name for this type of dark honey, but its correct name is pine honey. The name gives a clue as to how the bees produce this particular honey.

The type of bees that typically produce black honey is regular honey bees. As with all differences in flavor, color, and health benefits, these characteristics are imparted to the honey from the pollen and nectar source. Not the species of bees.

The location where these honey bees live is a determining factor in the type of honey they produce since a series of environmental conditions and plant diversity contribute to pine honey production.

Precisely What Is Black Honey?

Many people are unaware that some honey is not produced from plant nectar but rather from the secretions of certain insects!

Everyone knows the typical way that honey is produced, by bees buzzing from flower to flower and collecting pollen and nectar as they go. These products are taken back to the hive, processed, stored, and evaporated to a specific moisture level, resulting in what we know as ripe honey.

The raw ingredients of black honey are collected a little differently by the bees. The locations where black honey is produced are generally in the pine forests on mountains in the Mediterranean, especially in Greece and Turkey.

black honey is produced in pine forests

These mountainous regions in the Mediterranean have an abundance of pine trees with very few other flowering plants to provide resources for honey bees. The pine trees are hosts to a sap-sucking scale insect called Marchalina hellenica

Yeah… I know. Not a very fun name 🙂 

They live under the scaly bark of resinous trees.

These insects feast on the sap of pine trees. They secrete a nectar-like substance called honeydew, which the bees collect as a nectar substitute in these regions, 

This kind of behavior is typical where there are no other floral resources. 

The habitat of the bees in the pine forests has also led to this honey being called forest honey.

So How Do Bees Make Black Honey?

The honey bees in these Mediterranean pine forests collect the honeydew produced by the scale insects living on the pine trees and feeding on the pine tree sap.

This sweet honeydew replaces nectar typically produced by flowering plants. The bees collect the secretions from the scale insects and return them to the hive, which is used in the same way normal flower nectar would.

Honey produced in this way is generally differentiated in beekeeping circles as honeydew honey as opposed to standard honey!

Actually, black honey is the product of the honeydew secretions and the other flowering shrubs in the region that do not produce sufficient nectar but contribute to the honey by supplying the bees with pollen.

The unique combination of the pollen-producing plants in the region and the honeydew from the insects produces that signature flavor, color, and health benefits attributed to black honey. 

What Causes The Honey To Be Black?

The color of the honey is a direct result of the ingredients used by the bees to produce it. In the case of black honey, the very dark amber color is a characteristic imparted by the honeydew secretions collected from the scale insects.

The low plant nectar ratio in the honey and lower sugar content, combined with the unique pollen sources in the region, give this honey its characteristic dark color.

Where Does Black Honey Come From?

Black honey is relatively rare in many regions of the world. Still, it is abundant in Turkey, which produces 92% of the world’s black honey. However, the local population consumes much of the black honey produced in Turkey, who eats this honey daily as a health remedy. 

Most Turkish breakfast dishes feature black honey in some ways since it is believed that consuming black honey in the morning provides health benefits throughout the day.

Black honey, or pine honey, is also produced in Greece. The monk settlements at Mount Athos are famous for their black honey production.

Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Italy, and the United States also produce small quantities of black honey in heavily forested regions where the scale insects also occur.

Is Black Honey Real Or Manmade?

This is a good question; you should be careful about what type of honey you choose!

Natural black honey is honey produced by bees that collect the honeydew from an insect that lives on pine trees.

This honey is pure and natural and is considered real honey. However, another product on the international market called Black Honey is not honey at all! 

The commercial Black Honey product is made from sugar cane, which is mechanically milled to produce a dark, sweet, viscous product marketed as Black Honey.

This artificial product is manufactured in Egypt, India, Southeast Asia, the United States, and the Caribbean. It should not be confused with the natural black honey or pine honey from the Mediterranean 🙂

What Does Black Honey Taste Like?

Black honey is a sought-after honey variety for its health benefits. However, it tastes pretty different from the traditional honey flavor.

Black honey is less sweet than other honey because it has a lower glucose and fructose content. After all, the nectar used to produce this honey is not derived directly from plants.

Black honey, or pine honey, contains the highest amount of enzymes, minerals, and amino acids compared to regular honey. 

Maybe this is one of the reasons people attribute so many health advantages to black honey.

Black honey is considered to have more nutritional and health benefits than traditional standard honey. Still, it is relatively rare due to the limited regions where it is produced.

Just be careful what you buy!

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