• Español
  • Français
  • English
  • Português

Let's give a toast for tropical honey

Greetings from Asia! My name is Cleo Cervancia, a Professor from the University of the Philippines Los Banos and currently the President of Apimondia Regional Commission for Asia. In 2014, our topic was on stingless bees and how to produce and collect honey, pollen and propolis from stingless bees. Now, we are inviting you once again to join the discussion on tropical honey, especially the honey produced in Asia.  Our aim is to establish honey standard including for wild honey from giant bees and stingless bees. Quality standards for honey are needed to produce better quality of honey, safeguard consumer’s health and gain consumer’s trust that they are purchasing quality and safe products, and ensure that honey and the way it is produced meets the legislative policy, and ethical requirements of importing countries for food safety, consumer protection, environmental protection, and worker’s welfare (Partap et al 2012).

Do you believe that not all honey is equal? The plant sources, type of bees and environment are major factors that explain why not all honeys are not the same.  It is for this reason that we need to harmonize tropical honey standards set by each country to further improve its quality. Moreover, standards are used for marketing purposes. The consumers have the right to know the quality of the product they are getting.

As you might know, there are existing standards for honey based on Codex Alimentarius and EU honey directive.  However, the criteria set by EU directives are based on honey produced by western species of honey bees, Apis mellifera. So this means that according to EU honey directive, all honey produced by bees that are not Apis mellifera (or the European honey bee) cannot be sold as honey.   Considering the diverse bee species and vegetation in the tropics, it is about time to establish separate standard for the tropical honey.  In the Hindu Kush Himalayan countries, only China, India and Nepal have developed quality assurance systems for honey. The Philippines has also crafted standard for honey. The aim of harmonization is to find commonalities, identify the critical requirements  that need to be retained, and provide a common standard for the Asian region. 

The following topics will be covered in this discussion:

I.                  Introduction : Definition of honey and How honey is produced

II.                 Species of honey producing bees

III.                Physico-chemical characteristics of tropical honey

IV.                Proposed standard for tropical honey

V.                 Synthesis

We invite you to join the discussion which will run from 7 October to 7 November 2016 to ask questions and most importantly to share your knowledge !




Hi Mr. Polintan, 

From my research on honey bee (A. meliffera) plants, these are known to provide propolis:

Abies albaAcacia berlandieriAcacia caffraAcacia decurrensAcacia greggiiAcacia karrooAcacia melliferaAcacia modestaAcacia polyphyllaAcacia senegalAcacia seyalAcer platanoidesAcer pseudoplatanusAesculus hippocastanumAlcea roseaAlnus sieboldianaAlnus viridisAraucaria heterophyllaArtocarpus altilisArtocarpus heterophyllusBetula pendulaBetula pubescens ssp. pubescensBorago officinalisBrachystegia utlilisBursera excelsaBursera simarubaCaesalpinia bonducCalophyllum inophyllumCastanea sativiaCasuarina glaucaCasurina equisetifoliaChamerion angustifolium subsp. angustifoliumCocos nuciferaCornus masCynara cardunculusEucalyptus sideroxylonFicus caricaFicus elasticaFicus thonningiiFraxinusFraxinus excelsiorGazania Guioa semiglaucaHedera helixHelianthus annuusHevea brasiliensisHevea brasiliensisHibiscus rosa sinensisHymenaea courbarilJulbernardia baumiiKielmeyera coriaceaLandolphia capensisLarrea tridentataLimnanthes albaMangifera indicaMentha piperitaMyoporum laetumPersea americanaPinus wallichianaPlumeria rubraPopulus albaPopulus angustifoliaPopulus balsamiferaPopulus canadensisPopulus deltoidesPopulus nigraPopulus tremulaProtium copalPrunus armeniacaPrunus aviumPrunus cerasiferaPrunus cerasusPsidium guajavaQuercus roburSalix babylonicaSalix capreaSalix rubensSalix sinereaSalvia apianaSchinus terebinthifoliusSchizolobium parahybaSilene viscariaSophora japonicaSorbus aucupariaSterculia tragacanthaXanthorrhoea Xanthorrhoea australisXanthorrhoea preissii

I would be very curious to know what plants and trees the stingless bees are able to take propolis from. Also this is not an exhaustive list, but what I can find from literature reviews (in english) and my experience in West Africa and the Caribbean. 


Ideally, we should analyze honey gathered from both dipterocarp and non-dipterocarps. However, it is difficult to get unifloral honey in a tropical forest. The best option is to analyze honey from several colonies and get the ranges for each parameter used in characterization (moisture content, apparent sucrose, hmf, reducing sugar, electrical conductivity, pH). We can harmonize all the properties, with a generic name "stingless bee honey".

The first time we saw green honey (in Malaysia), we presumed it was an anomaly some 2 years ago. but lately the frequency has upgraded to what I would consider as uncommon (not so rare anymore). This sample(see attached photo) of a domesticated Hetrotrigona itama was sent togother with 2 other samples (of suspect quality in local retail market)  the Malysian Genome Institute for analysis by Magnetic Nuclear Resonance (MNR). Results showed (authenticated by Dr. Nor Azfa of MGI) the green honey was true stingless bee honey. The other 2 golden ones are fake.

The second photo is from a stingless bee keeper in Sulawesi (Mr. Suardi Saide) in his nest of Geniotrigona incisa, shows some green honey (spilt when he opened it)

Third photo is another nest of H. itama in peninsula Malaysia as can be seen green in the pots. We have received reports (photos available) even in north Borneo.

Seems like color of authentic Meliponine honey needs to be taken into account because I have seen even pink and even purple honey. We are conducting tests and found the purple ones seem to have the coloration in the micro sediments rather than the media itself.

I post this in the hope of inciting others to upload photos or records of other extreme colors of honey that they have encountered.


I had the privilege to be a part of the Intensive Beekeeping Program  lead by Dr. Cleo Cervancia.  The course  touches on the different species of bees but what interests me the most is the Stingless Bee T. Biroi.   A good pollinator for those who have farm lands thus increases crop yield.  It also has a high medicinal value of its honey, pollen and propolis.   I really had a great and memorable  week  here at UPLB and from all of us in team BEEhave we would like to  give a toast to the UPLB Bee Program Team for their dedication and passion....and a toast for tropical honey!!! 

Live , Love, BEE Happy :)

Dear Alduz,


Thank you for appreciating our training, as well as the BEE team. We hope your interest  in beekeeping will be sustained. Looking forward to a plentiful harvest-  an aunthentic tropical honey.

eraldwin dimailig's picture

Keep up the good work Dr. Cervancia and the whole UPLB Bee Keeping Team! I hope you continue on helping others to make the industry of beekeeping  in the Philippines as a strong colony of bees!

I recently came from the six-day intensive bee training course of the University of the Philippines-Los Banos. Bees and honey production have fascinated me for a long time then - I relied mostly on Youtube videos to know more about bees and how to produce honey. I initially wanted to have a bee farm for money matters. I told myself that after the training, I would invest to purchase Flow Hive. My mindset totally changed after the training program. Now, I want to rear bees start up my own farm sometime in the future as this, I think is the most effective and the only means I know to contribute to a sustainable environment. Kudos to the team of scientists behind bee conservation efforts!

Dear Ken,


Thank you for posting..  Attending a bee training course  will help you decide which  species of bees to  keep, although you can have them all! But of course, when we think of conservation, native bees are the best. I am sure you have learned the best beekeeping practices.  If you will read the post of Mr. Jalil, handling of honey is a major concern in standardization of products. It should be the bottom line. Our team hopes that you can contribute to the "pool"of authentic honey in the market.

eraldwin dimailig's picture

Dr Good day!how can we say that a honey is a authentic honey?mine for example is the GREEN honey sold in one university here in Quezon province...for curiosity I bought a bottle of this...can you help us identify this honey?Thanks much Dr and team team of expert!


Honey-Producing Bees in the Tropics

Asia has many species of native bees that produce honey. The giant bee produces the highest volume of honey because they  are large and their food requirement is huge. Species of giant bees are Apis laboriosa, Apis dorsata, Apis breviligula and Apis nuluensis.  Do you know that a colony of giant bee  produces around 40-60 kg  of honey per season?  Smaller honey bee, Apis cerana and Apis nigrocincta  produces  2-5 kg of honey per season, while  stingless bees produces only 2-3 kg per season. Do you have honey production data  in your country?

Other honey bees, like Apis andreniformis and Apis florea produce small amounts  of honey that is not usually harvested because of the limited quantity. Apis mellifera is  also present in the tropics and  used in commercial beekeeping. Its annual honey production ranges from 20-60 kg per colony.

Have you observed any differences in the aroma, flavor, color and consistency of the honey mentioned?    it depends on the user’s preference. Some prefers very sweet honey over sour-tasting honey, like the stingless bee honey.