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What species of bees make honey?

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  • Julie Tennis
    Hello! :) I m trying to track down how many different species of bees make honey, but all I get is Some other types of related bees produce and store honey,
    Message 1 of 12 , Oct 29, 2013
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      Hello!  :)

      I'm trying to track down how many different species of bees make honey, but all I get is "Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees," or some other similarly vague answer.

      Does someone know the answer to this? 

      I'm not looking for bees that store nectar (like the Bombus), but am curious if there are other bees who actually make honey.  I am working on a presentation and want to know if my comment "only honey bees make honey" is accurate.

      Thank you!  :)

      Julie Tennis
      Writer, Educator, Beekeeper

      julietennis@...
    • Laura Russo
      The native sugarbag bees (*Tetragonula carbonaria)* in Australia make a harvestable honey. ... -- PhD Candidate Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
      Message 2 of 12 , Oct 29, 2013
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        The native sugarbag bees (Tetragonula carbonaria) in Australia make a harvestable honey.


        On Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 1:48 PM, Julie Tennis <julietennis@...> wrote:
         

        Hello!  :)

        I'm trying to track down how many different species of bees make honey, but all I get is "Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees," or some other similarly vague answer.

        Does someone know the answer to this? 

        I'm not looking for bees that store nectar (like the Bombus), but am curious if there are other bees who actually make honey.  I am working on a presentation and want to know if my comment "only honey bees make honey" is accurate.

        Thank you!  :)

        Julie Tennis
        Writer, Educator, Beekeeper

        julietennis@...




        --
        PhD Candidate
        Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
        Biology Department
        Pennsylvania State University
        University Park, PA 16802

        office: 415 Mueller Lab
        phone: 814-865-7912
      • Doug Yanega
        ... If you DO NOT consider Bombus honey to be true honey, then only Apis make true honey. I think you d have trouble making the definition that restrictive,
        Message 3 of 12 , Oct 29, 2013
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          On 10/29/13 10:48 AM, Julie Tennis wrote:
           
          Hello!  :)

          I'm trying to track down how many different species of bees make honey, but all I get is "Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees," or some other similarly vague answer.

          Does someone know the answer to this? 

          I'm not looking for bees that store nectar (like the Bombus), but am curious if there are other bees who actually make honey.  I am working on a presentation and want to know if my comment "only honey bees make honey" is accurate.


          If you DO NOT consider Bombus honey to be true honey, then only Apis make true honey. I think you'd have trouble making the definition that restrictive, though. Bombus certainly make it and store it, and it's not just plant nectar, though it is far more dilute than Apis honey, and much more like meliponine honey. That's why those statements you see online are so vague. All non-parasitic Bombus make and store honey, as do all non-parasitic and non-carrion-feeding Meliponines. A few vespids also produce honey.

          Peace,
          -- 
          Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
          Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
          phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
                       http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
            "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
                  is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
        • Jack Neff
          I agree with Doug.  Bombus honey has very low sucrose content indicating the bees are adding invertase which would technically make  it honey.  Most workers
          Message 4 of 12 , Oct 29, 2013
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            I agree with Doug.  Bombus honey has very low sucrose content indicating the bees are adding invertase which would technically make  it honey.  Most workers consider the sugary stuff meliponines store to be honey as well.  If your definition requires high concentrations, then only members of the genus Apis (5-11 spp) qualify.
             
            John L. Neff
            Central Texas Melittological Institute
            7307 Running Rope
            Austin,TX 78731 USA
            512-345-7219


            On Tuesday, October 29, 2013 1:04 PM, Doug Yanega <dyanega@...> wrote:
             
            On 10/29/13 10:48 AM, Julie Tennis wrote:
             
            Hello!  :)

            I'm trying to track down how many different species of bees make honey, but all I get is "Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees," or some other similarly vague answer.

            Does someone know the answer to this? 

            I'm not looking for bees that store nectar (like the Bombus), but am curious if there are other bees who actually make honey.  I am working on a presentation and want to know if my comment "only honey bees make honey" is accurate.


            If you DO NOT consider Bombus honey to be true honey, then only Apis make true honey. I think you'd have trouble making the definition that restrictive, though. Bombus certainly make it and store it, and it's not just plant nectar, though it is far more dilute than Apis honey, and much more like meliponine honey. That's why those statements you see online are so vague. All non-parasitic Bombus make and store honey, as do all non-parasitic and non-carrion-feeding Meliponines. A few vespids also produce honey.

            Peace,
            -- 
            Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
            Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
            phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
                         http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
              "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
                    is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82


          • Peter Bernhardt
            Dear Julie: We seem to have hit a snag here based on how we define the word, honey. As a matter of fact, I gave a class in nectar vs. honey today in my class
            Message 5 of 12 , Oct 29, 2013
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              Dear Julie:

              We seem to have hit a snag here based on how we define the word, honey.  As a matter of fact, I gave a class in nectar vs. honey today in my class in pollination biology.  I referred to it as a processed and stored food that some bees make out of floral (and sometimes extra-floral) nectar.  The product is stored in a bee-made cell, pot or chamber but first it is processed in two ways.

              1)  Some of the water in the nectar is removed concentrating the remaining contents (but is there a rule about how much of the water must be evaporated?).
              2)  The bee or bees add invertase to the now concentrated product.  

              Consequently, honey is usually seen as a product produced exclusively (almost exclusively?) in the family Apidae and tends, in turn, to be restricted to species in the genera Apis, Bombus and Trigona/Tetragula(?).  Species in these genera produce honey in varying quantities at varying concentrations (or viscosities).   If this definition is wrong would someone please correct me so I don't mislead my students anymore?  Is anyone aware of a separately stored honey product in nests of euglossine bees and/or larger, semi-social genera like Amegilla?  Can anyone tell us about honey cells or pots in bees belonging to any other Family of bees?

              For that matter what do we call the honey made by other bees that is always mixed with pollen to form a loaf or pudding (using the terminology of Australian T. Rayment)?  It's clear that the foraging and egg-laying bee of certain species regurgitate. evaporate and "whip" the nectar they collect before mixing it with pollen to form a pudding (an edible structure based on two ingredients) on which to lay an egg.  Do these bees make honey but then combine it with pollen to make a new product?  The logic here is that if I mix one tsp. of mustard to one tablespoon of vinegar and three tablespoons of olive oil the emulsification is known as French Dressing.  If I pour what I've made on lettuce leaves, cucumber slices, tomato wedges etc. I now have a dressed salad but that salad was dressed with French dressing. 

              Peter Bernhardt   


              On Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 12:48 PM, Julie Tennis <julietennis@...> wrote:
               

              Hello!  :)

              I'm trying to track down how many different species of bees make honey, but all I get is "Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees," or some other similarly vague answer.

              Does someone know the answer to this? 

              I'm not looking for bees that store nectar (like the Bombus), but am curious if there are other bees who actually make honey.  I am working on a presentation and want to know if my comment "only honey bees make honey" is accurate.

              Thank you!  :)

              Julie Tennis
              Writer, Educator, Beekeeper

              julietennis@...


            • Doug Yanega
              ... To this, I would add 3) stored in chambers separately from larval chambers Honey production clearly evolved to provide food for workers, rather than brood,
              Message 6 of 12 , Oct 29, 2013
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                On 10/29/13 2:51 PM, Peter Bernhardt wrote:
                 
                Dear Julie:

                We seem to have hit a snag here based on how we define the word, honey.  As a matter of fact, I gave a class in nectar vs. honey today in my class in pollination biology.  I referred to it as a processed and stored food that some bees make out of floral (and sometimes extra-floral) nectar.  The product is stored in a bee-made cell, pot or chamber but first it is processed in two ways.

                1)  Some of the water in the nectar is removed concentrating the remaining contents (but is there a rule about how much of the water must be evaporated?).
                2)  The bee or bees add invertase to the now concentrated product.  

                To this, I would add

                3) stored in chambers separately from larval chambers

                Honey production clearly evolved to provide food for workers, rather than brood, and only if that distinction is made can one easily exclude every other bee that regurgitates nectar into the pollen mass.

                Consequently, honey is usually seen as a product produced exclusively (almost exclusively?) in the family Apidae and tends, in turn, to be restricted to species in the genera Apis, Bombus and Trigona/Tetragula(?).  Species in these genera produce honey in varying quantities at varying concentrations (or viscosities).   If this definition is wrong would someone please correct me so I don't mislead my students anymore?  Is anyone aware of a separately stored honey product in nests of euglossine bees and/or larger, semi-social genera like Amegilla?  Can anyone tell us about honey cells or pots in bees belonging to any other Family of bees?

                No other bees (not even euglossines) produce honey if we use the three criteria above, but there are now DOZENS of genera of meliponines recognized. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stingless_bee

                However, the vespid genus Brachygastra routinely produces and stores honey, used solely by workers. I seem to recall a few other vespids might do so facultatively, but I can't recall anything else that does this on a regular basis.

                Peace,
                -- 
                Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
                Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
                phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
                             http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
                  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
                        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
              • Cane, Jim
                Peter- as always, you ve given this some thought and I like your definition. The only group I would add to this are the social honey wasps that have already
                Message 7 of 12 , Oct 29, 2013

                Peter- as always, you’ve given this some thought and I like your definition.  The only group I would add to this are the social honey wasps that have already been mentioned.  But wait, oh no, honey pot ants come to mind!  They are living reservoirs, though, so maybe we don’t go there.  I consider honey to be stored food, unlike larval provisions that are the meal itself.  BTW, it appears likely that solitary bees add an invertase to collected nectar too, to judge from the disappearance of sucrose from alfalfa nectar by the time it ends up in a provision (could be an enzyme from the pollen too, or even yeasts and such that might be in the provision).  I’ll attach the paper that notes this.

                 

                 

                Jim

                 

                ===============================

                James H. Cane

                USDA-ARS Pollinating Insect Research Unit

                Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322 USA

                tel: 435-797-3879   FAX: 435-797-0461

                email: Jim.Cane@... 

                web page: www.ars.usda.gov/npa/beelab

                publications: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/piru/

                Gardening for Bees: http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/plants-pollinators09.pdf

                 





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              • Brian Dykstra
                Dear Julie, The statement that only honey bees (sensu: Apis species) make honey is false, although I have seen PhD Entomologists make such statements on shows
                Message 8 of 12 , Oct 30, 2013
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                  Dear Julie,
                  The statement that only honey bees (sensu: Apis species) make honey is false, although I have seen PhD Entomologists make such statements on shows like NPR's 'Science Friday'.   
                  Bee in the tribe Meliponini (or subtribe Meliponina), also known as stingless bees, make and store honey - I have read a wide range of estimated species for this tribe, which contains numerous genera, often found in tropical and subtropical regions.  Melipona beecheii and Trigona (Tetragonula) carbonaria are two commonly refered to species that are kept in rational hives for honey in Central America and Australia respectively.  
                  Bumble bees also make and store honey.  Numerous academic papers refer to this behavior: see here for an Apidologie paper by Dornahaus and Chittka (2004).  Even solitary bees will concentrate nectar before mixing  it with pollen provisions.
                  I hope this brief answer helps!  Visit my Ethnobeeology page here and peruse the 'Australia' "Central America' and 'South America' photo albums for more information on stingless bees.
                  Sincerely,
                  Brian



                  On Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 10:48 AM, Julie Tennis <julietennis@...> wrote:
                   

                  Hello!  :)

                  I'm trying to track down how many different species of bees make honey, but all I get is "Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees," or some other similarly vague answer.

                  Does someone know the answer to this? 

                  I'm not looking for bees that store nectar (like the Bombus), but am curious if there are other bees who actually make honey.  I am working on a presentation and want to know if my comment "only honey bees make honey" is accurate.

                  Thank you!  :)

                  Julie Tennis
                  Writer, Educator, Beekeeper

                  julietennis@...


                • Brian Dykstra
                  Dear Julie, In addition to the message I sent you (and the group - sorry if it started a new thread) I would like to add a resource about honey producing wasps
                  Message 9 of 12 , Oct 30, 2013
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                    Dear Julie,
                    In addition to the message I sent you (and the group - sorry if it started a new thread) I would like to add a resource about honey producing wasps -My Ethnobeeology page has information about wasps here  - there are ongoing cultural traditions in Mexico, Central America, and South America associated with collection of honey from various wasp species!
                    Best of luck!
                    Brian
                  • pollinator2001
                    Re the definition of honey: Some very prized honeys are not made from floral nectar, but from the secretions (honeydew) of other insects. So a definition that
                    Message 10 of 12 , Oct 31, 2013
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                      Re the definition of honey:  Some very prized honeys are not made from floral nectar, but from the secretions (honeydew) of other insects. So a definition that indicates exclusive use of plant nectar as the source, would not be accurate.

                      Dave Green
                      Retired pollination contractor
                    • Dennis E Johnson
                      To drag bureaucracy into this discussion, the National Honey Board has defined honey as: the substance made when the nectar and sweet deposits from plants are
                      Message 11 of 12 , Oct 31, 2013
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                        To drag bureaucracy into this discussion, the National Honey Board has defined honey as: "the substance made when the nectar and sweet deposits from plants are gathered, modified and stored in the honeycomb by honey bees ".  So in their eyes, only honey bees (genus Apis) can make honey.  I know that Bombus makes a nectar substance similar, but in very small volumes, as well as a few other species as listed.

                        Denny Johnson
                        On Oct 31, 2013, at 1:14 PM, <Pollinator@...> <Pollinator@...> wrote:

                         

                         

                        Re the definition of honey:  Some very prized honeys are not made from floral nectar, but from the secretions (honeydew) of other insects. So a definition that indicates exclusive use of plant nectar as the source, would not be accurate.

                        Dave Green
                        Retired pollination contractor


                      • Dennis E Johnson
                        Thanks John, For making me do further research the Meliponini bees. I knew that they made a honey substance, but I didn t know that their honey was collected
                        Message 12 of 12 , Nov 2, 2013
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                          Thanks John,

                          For making me do further research the Meliponini bees.  I knew that they made a honey substance, but I didn't know that their honey was collected and actually marketed.
                            
                          As we can see, the definition of "honey" gets into a large discussion as to how we define it and I brought up the definition by the National Honey Board for marketing "honey" in the US as being only from "the honey bee" (Apis).  To further this definition for US marketing, the USDA has standards for grading honey as A, B, C, or Substandard based mostly on moisture content;  "A" honey must be < 18.6% moisture content and anything >20.0% is considered "Substandard" (B & C grades are in between these levels). Note that there is normally no inspection, but adherence is voluntary.  With this definition, the Meliponini honey would be considered "Substandard" and when it gets above 25% moisture content is subject to fermentation and perhaps molds.   However, the bees are making and storing the "honey" for their purposes and have no concept of our theft and marketing standards.

                          Clearly the marketing definitions are not the same as the scientific definitions and to me the scientific definition is accurate if you are not labeling and selling the product as "honey" in the US.  This is similar to the labeling as fruits vs vegetables in the US…….bureaucracy  vs science!

                          I tasted "honey" from Bombus vagans this summer when I inadvertently tore apart a hive they built in a storage box in my backyard and to me it tasted like honey (be tough to collect enough to market though). 
                           
                          I will be interested in ordering some of the Meliponini honey when it again becomes available (apparently supplies from one firm that I looked at are out).

                          Thanks to all of the responses to this question from that Julie started as all were informative and interesting.

                          Denny Johnson


                          On Oct 31, 2013, at 7:56 PM, John S Ascher wrote:


                          Stingless honey bees (Meliponini) are also honey bees, and how is the National Honey Board qualified to comment on them when they don't occur in the USA?

                          John S. Ascher, PhD
                          Assistant Professor
                          Department of Biological Sciences
                          National University of Singapore
                          14 Science Drive 4
                          Singapore 117543
                          (65) 6516 1683 (work)
                          (65) 9739 4576 (mobile)
                          dbsajs@...

                          Research Associate
                          Division of Invertebrate Zoology
                          American Museum of Natural History
                          Central Park W @ 79th St.
                          New York, NY 10024-5192


                          From: beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com [beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com] on behalf of Dennis E Johnson [Dermjohn@...]
                          Sent: Thursday, October 31, 2013 3:59 PM
                          To: Pollinator@...
                          Cc: beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com
                          Subject: Re: [beemonitoring] What species of bees make honey?

                           

                          To drag bureaucracy into this discussion, the National Honey Board has defined honey as: "the substance made when the nectar and sweet deposits from plants are gathered, modified and stored in the honeycomb by honey bees ".  So in their eyes, only honey bees (genus Apis) can make honey.  I know that Bombus makes a nectar substance similar, but in very small volumes, as well as a few other species as listed.


                          Denny Johnson
                          On Oct 31, 2013, at 1:14 PM, <Pollinator@...> <Pollinator@...> wrote:

                           

                           

                          Re the definition of honey:  Some very prized honeys are not made from floral nectar, but from the secretions (honeydew) of other insects. So a definition that indicates exclusive use of plant nectar as the source, would not be accurate.

                          Dave Green
                          Retired pollination contractor




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