As discussed in other articles posted, honey is the by-product of bee activity that leads to excess nectar storage within a honeycomb/hive or wax pots. Honey making requires a suitable bee for the process (as not all bees create honey), as well as a storage facility for the honey, and, of course, nectar from a flowering plant.
However, did you know that the specific type of plant nectar obtained by bees heavily influences the composition of the honey produced? This can be seen in the different varieties of honey offered on the market, examples of which are displayed in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Different Plant Sources Of Commercial Honey
|Type of Honey
|Common Plants Used in Australia
|Nectar from one plant species
|Nectar from multiple plant species
|Nectar exclusively from Acacia plants
|Nectar exclusively from Banksia plants
|Menzies Banksia, Orange Banksia
|Nectar exclusively from Eucalyptus plants
|Box Eucalypt, Stringybark Eucalypt, Red Gums, Jarrah
|Nectar excusively from Leptospermum
|Manuka Tea Trees
|Nectar excusively from Myrtle plants
|Nectar Exclusively from Borage plants
|Nectar exclusively from Lavender plants
|Nectar exclusively from Sage plants
The source plant of the honey becomes important when considering the compositional consequences of the product. In simpler terms, the nutritional and potentially medicinal value of the honey made is different when nectar is sourced from specific plants. The reason for this is because the molecules found in the nectar of a flower will differ significantly between different plant species, as each plant will need to produce many different types of molecules to help them survive day-to-day life. In many cases, the molecules made by these plants are also beneficial to human health (particularly in the case of antioxidants), and so the nectar of some flowering plants may be more valuable to human health and to honey flavour than other flowering plants. What this means is that honey made from a specific, monofloral source (for example, lavender) will be rich in a specific set number of important molecules (such as lavender-specific antioxidants); while, alternatively, polyfloral honey that derives nectar from nay types of plants may have more types of plant-specific molecules in it (I.e. a broader range of nutrients), but in lower amounts (compared to the monofloral source). This, of course, depends on how much nectar was used from each plant, and from which plants the nectar was sourced.
In Australia, there is a large variety of honey available to consumers, and multiple plant sources are often utilised for production. However, according to the CSIRO, most honey made in Australia is sourced from Eucalyptus trees (Milla et al., 2021). Given that Eucalyptus trees are full of molecules of interest to human health, Australian honey products may be providing us with more than just a sweet treat!
- Milla L, Sniderman K, Lines R, Mousavi-Derazmahalleh M, Encinas-Viso F. Pollen DNA metabarcoding identifies regional provenance and high plant diversity in Australian honey. Ecol Evol. 2021 Jun 3;11(13):8683-8698. doi: 10.1002/ece3.7679. PMID: 34257922; PMCID: PMC8258210.