Yukon Honeydew Honey
Instead of taking nectar, bees can take honeydew, the sweet secretions of aphids or other plant sap-sucking insects. Honeydew honey is very dark brown in color, with a rich fragrance of stewed fruit or fig jam, and is not as sweet as nectar honeys.
The production of honeydew honey has some complications and dangers. This honey has a much larger proportion of indigestibles than light floral honeys, thus causing dysentery to the bees, resulting in the death of colonies in areas with cold winters. Good beekeeping management requires the removal of honeydew prior to winter in colder areas. Bees collecting this resource also have to be fed protein supplements, as honeydew lacks the protein-rich pollen accompaniment gathered from flowers. (Source Wiki)
I recently had my 2017 and 2018 Honeys tested at the NMR Laboratory. Test results here. My Samples were compared to 17,016 honey samples of which 1933 were of European honeydew honeys. As the database of Canadian honeydew and other floral honeys gets tested and collected the lab will then have a "finger" print to test to determine sources and against fake honey.
The lab test compared several criteria (Sugar compounds/ratios, variety of sugar contained, amino acids, organic acid content) to determine origin. They both tested as 100% of Honeydew origin.
Objective of Study (I'm not a microbiologist)
To identify Yukon honeydew honey sources (Plants & Insects) through the identification of common Honeydew trace fungi and algae. I will also use the exercise to identify floral pollens in my honey.
Challenges: No studies have been conducted in Canada on honeydew honey sources. I will also have to improvise the required lab equipment to conduct my study (centrifuge). Most studies compare HDE (Honeydew Elements) / P (Pollen) ratio to determine primary honey type
Sampling Method: For each sample, 10 g were taken from 500 g of previously homogenised honey, dissolved in 20 ml of distilled water at 40 °C, centrifuged for 10 min at 560 g and allowed to settle. The sediment was recovered in 10 ml of distilled water and again centrifuged. The sediment was then collected with a Pasteur pipette and dried onto microscope slides at 40 °C. It was then mounted in glycerine-gelatine and covered (Louveaux et al. 1978).
Test Method: Colour, pH, EC, Humidity % and Microscopy
Simple method of separating the pollen/sediments from the honey for viewing under the microscope
Difference Between Blossom and Honeydew Honeys
Honeys with high Metschnikowia yeast had less electrical conductivity, lighter colour, higher humidity, minor enzymatic content and lower mineral content, which are all common features of blossom honeys. On the other hand, honeys with significant quantities of HD spores were dark or dark amber honeys with high electrical conductivity, relatively high pH, high enzymatic activity, high mineral content and low humidity content. These characteristics are common to honeydew honeys or blends.(5)
Common Pollen and Cells found in Yukon Blossom Honey
Metschnikowia yeast ?
Scale is off by x1000
Phacelia Tanacelifolia Pollen
Common Trace Fungi and Algae found in Honeydew (HD) honey
They grow over the leaves and green parts of plants, causing various diseases. Fungal elements can be introduced into honeys when the worker bees collect honeydew from the plant. As expected, the presence of fungal pathogens could be indicative of the presence of honeydew. (5)
Phragmidium (teliospores - winter spores - Aka "Cattails") - Source Wild Rose
Rust Spores (Aka - fried eggs)
Algae - Common Coniferous HD Honey
Common Honeydew producing insects in the Yukon
All honeydew producing insects belong to the order Hemiptera : Homoptera (Rhynchota). This group includes a large number of Coccoidea, all Aleyroidea and Psylloidea and most of the Aphidoidea and Cicadoidea (MAURIZIO , 1976)(8)
The Aphidoidea are a predominately north-temperate group of Hemiptera, with more than 1000 species in Canada. They feed on a wide range of hostplants and are generally abundant in most parts of the temperate region. Yukon has 53 different types of Aphids. (7). We likely also have a few ALEYRODIDAE (whiteflies) and scale insects producing honeydew in our area.
Host plants in the Yukon are likely to be Pine, Spruce, Trembling Aspen, Balsam Poplar, Willows, Fireweed, Rose Hips and a multitude of other plants that host honeydew producing insects.
Yukon urban and rural agricultural (Takhini) beekeepers have access to vast amounts of blossoms throughout the season Late April to September due to the presence of more non-native frost tolerant plants (clovers). Beekeepers in native boreal forest are more likely to encounter honeydew. From late June to mid July forage options are limited and the bees will likely start collecting honeydew. Fireweed blossoms tend to run from late July to mid August at which point the bees available forage becomes very limited and they will start foraging alternatives (i.e. Honeydew). These conclusions are based on the last 5 years of beekeeping in my location and interacting with other Yukon beekeepers. I have had to modify my hive management approach to ensure successful over wintering.
Mix of Honeydew honey (darker cells)
& Fireweed honey (light coloured cells)
The honey frames can be visually inspected to measure the presence of honeydew being collected. (Picture taken July 27, 2018)
Picture taken towards the north in the Mt Lorne area:
Location of one of my beeyards surrounded by a mixed pine and spruce forest. To the south there is about +20 acres of aspen and +100 acres of swampy willow landscape.
Hive Management Approach for Cold Climates if Honeydew Honey is common in your apiary:
The challenge is the very cold long winters (5-7 months). The Bees will overwinter better on a pure carbohydrate winter diet (white sugar syrup "honey"). The hives must also be well insulated and a method of moisture control must be used.
**My goal is to ensure the bottom two brood boxes contain sugar syrup honey and doesn't get backfilled with honeydew honey.
Basic Safe Approach (2 brood chamber method):
- Feed syrup 1:1 and pollen patties until honey flow (April to mid-July) - Weight goal is to get my 2 brood boxes to ~125lbs (polyboxes) or 145lbs (std wood boxes) before the main nectar flow.
- Remove any brood box frames showing signs of darker honey (store for next spring)
- Feed syrup 2:1 and pollen patties after nectar flow until weather turn.
Advanced Method to maximize honeydew honey harvest( 1 single brood chamber hive and one 2 brood chamber hive):
- (Single hive) Feed syrup 1:1 and pollen patties until 1st nectar flow (April to June) - Weight goal is ~75lbs before adding honey super
- (Double hive) Feed syrup 1:1 and pollen patties until 1st nectar flow (April to mid-July) and replace capped sugar syrup honey frames with empty frames to build up sugar syrup frames
- (Single hive) Leave honey supers on until the end of August (Honeydew can be collected until early September)
- (Single hive) Add second brood box with collected sugar syrup honey frames and feed syrup 2:1 and pollen patties after honey supers are removed - (Caution - the longer you wait the higher the risk that hive has unrippened stores going into winter)
- (Double hive) Feed syrup 2:1 and pollen patties after nectar flow until weather turn.
Note: Bees that are foraging honeydew will likely be pollen deficient hence the importance of using pollen patties to supplement
All of my winter losses in the past 5 years have been due to Nosema C related failures (4 hives). On my Northern Nosema page you will find example of a hive with a very high Nosema infection. Bees infected with Nosema will consume higher amounts of winter stores. The higher the ash content in the honey (i.e. honeydew honey) the higher the chance that the bees will defecate in the hive due to lack of cleansing flight weather. This will increase the risk of the Nosema infection being spread via the bee feces and the bees housekeeping behaviour.
Figure Above: Shows a visual representation of our weather in Bee terms. The 2018/2019 clearly shows that the last cleansing flight (>8C weather for a few hours was mid October. The next available weather wasn't before mid March 2019. That is almost 5 months without the bees defecating. Definitions (Blue) Forage Degree Hours FDH - >8C ; (Orange) Nectar Degree Hours NDH >16C; (Grey) Clustering Degree Hours CDH <8C.
0. Honeydew Sources and Their Honeys
1. Discriminating pine and fir honeydew honeys by microscopic characteristics
2. Fungal diversity in honeys from northwest Spain and their relationship to the ecological origin of the product
3. CHARACTERISTICS OF POLISH UNIFLORAL HONEYS IV. HONEYDEW HONEY, MAINLY ABIES ALBA L.
4. Fungal Diversity in Floral and Honeydew Honeys
5. Differentiation of Blossom Honey and Honeydew Honey from Northwest Spain
6. NOTES ON HONEY BEES GATHERING HONEY~DEW FROM A SCALE INSECT,PHYSOKERMES PICEAE, SCHR -
7. Aphids (Homoptera: Aphidoidea) of the Yukon
8. INSECTS PRODUCING HONEYDEW EXPLOITED BY BEES IN GREECE