What is honeydew? And how does it differ from nectar honeys?

26th October 2013


When honey bees create honeydew or forest honey, they don’t start with sweet nectar gathered from flower blossoms. Rather, they create this unique honey with another sweet substance called honeydew—produced by aphids. This sweet substance is a natural waste product excreted by aphids as a byproduct of consuming plant sap. The aphids eat the sap not so much for sugars but for the amino acids it contains. This means that most of the sugars are expelled by the aphid as honeydew, a substance that bees love (ants too).

Since honeydew is chemically different from nectar, honeydew honey is also chemically different from regular blossom honey. It is usually darker with a higher mineral content, and has a stronger taste and particular nutritional/therapeutic benefits. It is highly prized in Europe.

While the composition of honeydew honey varies by the type of insect and plant, just as the composition of blossom honey varies by the type of blossom, there are some common differences. In general, honeydew honey is higher in minerals and amino acids as well as higher molecular weight sugars (oligosaccharides) in particular, melezitose and raffinose. Oligosaccharides are prebiotics that have a beneficial effect on bacteria in the digestive system. It tends to be darker, less sweet, less acidic and resists crystallization when compared to honey. Honeydew honey has higher electrical conductivity and ash content and tends to remain liquid and resist crystallization because of high fructose and low glucose levels, as well as a low glucose to water ratio. There has been some research that indicates that honeydew honey also has higher than average antibiotic properties due to higher levels of Glucose Oxidase which leads to the production of Hydrogen Peroxide.

Honeydew honey from different European countries share the following characteristics:

Color: Dark to very dark, honey colored, sometimes with green fluorescence.

Taste: Intensity: medium, woody and warm. Medium sweetness with weak acidity. No bitterness with a medium aroma. Medium persistence/aftertaste and sometimes astringent.

Aroma: Woody and warm.