Honeydew is a popular sweet food source for ants and honey bees. It is an excreta, that is to say a substance produced from the sap of plants by sucking insects, most of the time aphids but also mealybugs or leafhoppers. Honeydew is the result of an interaction between the plant, the excretory insect and the extracting insect. Bees collect honeydew to complement or replace nectar. The Anglo-Saxons use the very beautiful expression "honey dew" (honeydew) to designate it.
The excretory insects
Insects excreting honeydew have the capacity to swallow a huge quantity of sap, which contains, depending on the type of plant, 30 to 50% sugars and some aphids absorb a quantity greater than their weight in less than an hour. The honeydew is not digested because these insects have an organ called the filter chamber, establishing a short circuit between the fore gut and the hind gut.
Globally, there are several hundred species of honeydew-producing insects, but only a few dozen produce honeydew collected by bees. In the forests of Central Europe, we have identified 13 species of coccids (mealybugs), 66 species of aphids (aphids) and only 7 of these two species produce honeydew.
Many plant species can be the source of honeydew. There are mainly trees: fruit trees, maples, lime, chestnut, oak, resinous (spruce, Douglas fir, larch, pines, white fir, etc.) but also certain herbaceous plants such as cereals.
Honeydews are very diverse and can represent up to 30% of honey production in some years. They are mainly produced during the summer honey flow but honeydew honey can be found in the spring, mainly on fruit trees. All fir honeys are in fact resinous honeydews.
Characteristics of honeydew honeys
Honeydews are mainly characterized by a high conductivity linked to the significant presence of mineral salts conveyed in the plant sap. The content of simple sugars (glucose and fructose) is lower than for nectar honeys. Their antioxidant content is generally higher than for the latter. The color of honeydew is often dark, ranging from light brown to dark brown or even black. They are characterized by a taste of caramel with possibly bitter notes (burnt caramel) or cooked fruit. Resinous honeydews are characterized by resinous aromatic notes.
Even if the honeydew is not harvested from the flowers, there will be a whole series of airborne pollens that will stick to the droplets produced by the aphids. During the analysis, we will also find algae and fungi.
Miel Factory honeydews
Harvested in Spain, this creamy honey gives off powerful aromas of caramel and dried fruit.
Harvested in Haute-Corse, Maquis honey has aromas of liquorice and ripe fruit.
Harvested in the Vosges, its taste is almost balsamic with great sweetness.