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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 !




eraldwin dimailig's picture

how abot this?is it genuine?thanks!


The authenticity of honey cannot be judged by its color alone. Honey colors range from nearly colorless to dark brown, depending on the source of the nectar. It is important to determine the quality of honey through analysis. This may include determination of routine quality parameters such as water content, ash content, electrical conductivity, acidity, pH, hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), sugar content and enzyme activity.

"Showboating". The event was perhaps to highlight importance of the commodity, "stingless bee honey". The stunt was designed to attract public attention and it worked! I am playing the devils advocate here, but let us capitalize on the increased awareness it generated. Now that more people knew about "the other honey", we can now educate them on the importance of hygiene, product quality and industry standards. The public often react negatively to any form of criticism, but will happily join a cause when empowered via educated participation. They are a part of our cause, the CONSERVATION, UTILIZATION and COMMERCIALIZATION  of stingless bee and its honey....
The Codex gave us a template to follow. What needs to be done is the complete physico-chemical analysis of honey samples  from various species of stingless bees in the Asia, Australia, India, Africa, South America and other places where they occur. Harmonizing our methods, and results to come up with a product standard for meliponines. Something we can present for approval to an international body like the FAO Examples are the works of Sousa et al. (2006) and Bijlsma et al.,(2006).(attached files). Here they describe that variability in honey quality can be affected by the species that produce it. I see the critical role of collaboratories from the ASEAN University Network working with counterparts from other countries or unions in this endeavor.
Geographic location to certain extent will affect honey and other products as it affects vegetation. The floral origin of honey can be only determined by mellisopalynology - or the analysis of pollen load of honey samples, pollen pellets and bee bread... let us not forget the 'individual bees'. Vegetation analysis can also support this. Reference slides from flowers of extant species can help in pollen identification. The identification of resin sources, plants visited by stingless bees for the raw material for propolis can also be addressed as well. Analysis of compounds present in resin will allow for the characterization of propolis. An example is the publication of Alvarez et al., 2013. (attached file). It compared compounds present in propolis of local stingless bee colonies to plant resins that were visited by bees. The result indicates significant effect of vegetation type to propolis composition. 
For our friends in the xFDA ( (country) Food and Drug Administration)  the value of this is in - traceability... an asset in law enforcement and protecting the industry.

The GREEN HONEY - still a mystery.  So far all the samples we've analyzed were contentious. There were reports of other colors too, but we have yet to analyze one. However, we are not discounting the possibility  that there might be GREEN and more...

Thank you very much Professor Cleo Cervancia and all the people behind the beekeeping program of the University of the Phils. Los Baños .When I attended the intensive beekeeping at UPLB my knowledge was really very minimal . Now I appreciate more the tropical species that we have here in the Phils.Before I know only my stingless bees as pollinators in my HN organic farm. I know how disease resistant my stingless bees than my melliferas  so I don't pay much attention to them , their presence was just nothing ,thumbs up to the people who made me realized their value and potential .Now, I love them more.

Your green honey looks delicous. I have seen pinkish honey here in the U.S. from Kudzu but the flavor is not unique. It's pretty normal in that sense to a weak wildflower honey. 

you will be surprised. There are many variants of colorful honey- shades of green, yellow and orange. We have analyzed all of the samples, and all are fake.  We also look for pollen grains in the samples to complement the physico-chemical analysis.

I am a stingless beekeeper while honey is nutritious,the harvest is small.How can we manage them to increase honey yield? 


By the way, there are five major criteria in setting up honey standards, namely: moisture content, pH (acidity), electrical conductivity, hydroxyl-methyl furfural, reducing sugar and apparent sucrose.

Among these criteria, moisture content is the biggest problem facing beekepers in tropical areas. It is because of high humidity in the tropics. In  the Philippines, for example,  the range of moisture content of wild honey  produced by giant bees  ranges from 20-28% with an average of 23%.  Stingless bee has an average moisture content of 30%. In the standard that Philippines crafted (see attached below), the moisture content of honey from hived colonies remain to be 20%, which is consistent with the Codex and EU standards, however for giant bee and stingless bee honeys, our proposal were not more than 23% and not more than 30% respectively. If the market requires lower moisture content, the moisture is  reduced by dehumidification.   Percent moisture content of honey from other Asian countries have been established like India (20-25%), Nepal (23%)  and China (20%). All other parameters are  also consistent with Codex and EU. In Bangladesh, the BSTI is responsible for setting quality parameters for honey. Bhutan follows the Codex standard.

Stingless bee honey has obtained a niche in honey market, and it is necessary to establish its standard. In Brazil, the standards were  published using the following parameters: reducing sugar (min of 50%), moisture (max of 35%) apparent sucrose (max of 6%,) Insouluble solid(max of  0.4), minerals (max of 6%), acidity (max of 85%,) diastase activity (max of 3%) and  hmf (max of 40%). (Villas-Boas and Malapina 2005)

Do you produce stingless bee honey? If so, please share your observations on its quality with reference to  sensory attributes (appearance, aroma, flavor, texture)  and composition. How does it compare with honey from Apis spp?



Attached files: 

Dear Jay,

Thank you for joining this discussion and we hope you will have sustained interest in keeping stingless bees. On your concern about small amount of honey, here are our suggestions.

Stingless bees are small, and the food that they will gather is proportionate to their requirements. Giant bees produce large amount of honey (around 60 k) because they are bigger in size, thus they need  higher quantity of food.

For meliponiculture, you need more colony holdings to achieve the desired harvest. If you have 1,000 hives, even if their production is only 2 kilos per colony,  you will harvest 2,000 kilogram of honey per season.

Moreover, you can harvest pollen and propolis.

According to one beekeeper, beekeeping is a game of numbers.


How do we separate Pollen from Stingless Bee Honey? I am having a hard time separating pollen from honey. Often i use a strainer but with little effect.

Would the large amount of pollen content affect the fermantation of Honey?