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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 !




Dear Myrna,


Unfortunately, we  still need to separate the honey from pollen pots mechanically. Just make sure that the two will not mix. Pollen will enhance the fermentation of honey.


We  challenge enginners to devise a machine for this purpose.. Anyone?

Message posted on behalf of Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS),

Department of Agriculture, Philippines

The Philippine National Standard (PNS) for Code of Good Beekeeping Practices sets out the general principles of good practice and minimum requirements in the commercial or backyard apiaries or meliponiaries and in wild honey hunting intended for the production of honey, royal jelly, beeswax, pollen, and propolis which applies to all species of bees. The objectives of this Code is to ensure that the final products are safe and fit for human use, while ensuring safety to bees, beekeepers and wild honey hunters without any degradation to the environment.

This Code was developed by the Technical Working Group (TWG) organized by the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (BAFS) through a Department of Agriculture (DA).



Concerns about the proliferation of adulterated and "jaggery" honey in Philippine market did not go unnoticed. FDA Philippines issued  FDA Advisory 2016-073 (Attached file)

Our salute to MR. JULIAN WRIGHT!!!! 

You can follow the story here - http://beephilippines.info


Dear all,

I would like to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to the organiser and the moderator for organizing discussion on this very important topic of establishing quality standards for tropical honey. My name is Uma Partap.  I am working in the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) based in Kathmandu, Nepal. I am promoting indigenous honeybees, particularly Apis cerana for their pollination service and honey production.

It is rightly mentioned in the background note that all honeys are not equal. The flavor, the aroma, the taste, and overall quality of honey depends on its plant sources, type of bees and its overall environment. So how can they be measured against one set standard? Honey produced in the warmer (tropical) areas and particularly the wild species of honeybees is thin and has high moisture content. For example I have seen and tasted very good and very fragrant, but thin (high moisture content) honey from Bangladesh. Though it was pure, natural and good honey, it cannot pass the current international standards for moisture. So there is need to discuss and set moisture standards for honeys produced in different climatic zones.

Thank you also for raising the issue of including honey produced by honey bee species other than Apis mellifera in European definition of honey. There are currently 9 or 10 known species of honeybees in Asia that produce large proportion of honey in the region.  As per the European definition, honey produced by these bees cannot be defined as honey. So I think it is time to discuss the revision of European definition of honey to include honey produced by bees other than Apis mellifera to enable our beekeepers to sell their honey European market. 

At ICIMOD we conducted a study on the quality assurance of honey. I would like to share a part of that study on quality standards in place in the countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region as my contribution to this discussion.

Best regards,


Bart Rodriguez's picture

Greetings! We are worried more on the pesticide and heavy metal contaminations in honey. How can we address this problem?

It is difficult to address honey contamination especially if the apiary is within several kilometers of an agricultural land, industrial estates and/or mining industry.  We can however minimize contamination of bee products by putting the apiaries as far away from this areas.  Nowadays, many farmers are going "organic farming" instead of the traditional farming which are dependent on pesticides and other crop protection products.  Finding these organic farmlands and putting the apiaries there will be a good starting point.  From my viewpoint, this problem can be addressed if the government can set aside organic farmlands or regulate the use of pesticides to areas close to apiaries.  Although near impossible as farmers also has the right to use pesticides to increase crop yield and profit and the government will probably not want to get involved.

So back to the question of "how we can address it?", I think it is really up to the beekeeper.  If they can find a safe place to put their bees, an island perhaps, away from the major population then the problem of contamination can be solved.  Our study showed that even if we are far from industrial and mining areas, we still get contamination from time to time ("very low" heavy metals contamination).  And, yes we want and wish there is no contamination at all but with industrialization and environmental pollution, I personally think it would be impossible.  And as long as it is at the minimum and tolerable levels, the tropical beekeeping industry can prosper.

Good day everyone!

I am a beekeeper and a beekeeping consultant in Italy. It is just recently that I get to know the tropical bees and their products and I would love to know more about them.

Here in Piedmont, as I can speak only for what I have seen and what we practice here, one healthy hive produces an average of 75 kilograms of honey per season and it varies depending on the method of beekeeping you use. At the moment we are in stationary method as our location can provide enough honeyflow to our hives.

We have the Buckfast bees, the A. mellifera ligustica, the A.and mellifera carnica in our apiaries.

The tradition is we confer our honey to a cooperative and they are the ones who do the analysis if our product meets the standard before it can be sold to the market, retail or in gross.

The usual analysis they do is the following:

1. Refractive index

2. Density

3. Viscosity

4. Hygroscopicity

5. Specific heat and heat conductivity

6. Electric conductivity

7. Color

8. Crystallization

Based on these parameters, the honey is graded and then classified before they are delivered to the market, in gross or retail. This is done in order to make sure that the product has the STANDARD before it is labelled ITALIAN honey.

Thank you for the opportunity to take part on this discussion. I say that I am interested to read all of your comments and opinion in order to learn more to be a better beekeeper.


Dear Wowie,


Thank you for sharing the information on the quality assurance for Italian honey. I am aware of your strict requirements for honey and other bee products. Does the color of honey (light or honey) affect the pricing? What is the usual preference of the consumers?


When you visit us, we will have  "honey galore" of  local honey, and you will appreciate the variations in taste and aroma. This month we have "bitter"honey coming from Southern Philippines; "sour honey from stingless bees"and super sweet honey from sunflower.

Good day to all!

I am Grace R.  Legaspi, Senior Agriculturist  at the Agricultural Services Office of Calamba City, Laguna, Philippines.

Just wanted to share our experience with our honeybees. We were successful with one particular species, the stingless bees, Trigona sp.. We tried Apis mellifera and Apis cerana but both keep on absconding.  One of our pilot areas is Brgy. Mabato, a protected area here in the city and majority of the area were planted with coconut and coffee. 

We organized the farmers in the area and seminars were done from  identification of possible colony site, collecting, box making and harvesting were done. Since then we continuously monitor the area both the performance of stingless bees and the increase in yield of the existing crops since the coffee and coconut trees are all above 20 years of age. We noticed an increase in yield for coffee and such change brought the attention of our Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office 4A to also focus on the area. We are currently tied up with the said office in providing our farmers’ organization with coffee processing equipment and facility as well as coffee tree rehabilitation program.

All of these changes could be attributed to the effect of stingless bees, Trigona sp. to our crops especially coffee.  Our farmers are producing high quality honey and pollen which was tested by a reliable institution. Our farmers could demand a high price for their honey and pollen due to its high quality and delicious taste.   Thanks to stingless bees.


It was a clever decision to shift to stingless bees after that "episode" of absconding of the Apis species. Protected  areas are haven to bee species because of the diverse pollen and nectar sources. The absence of harmful agricultural inputs and industrial wastes provide enabling conditions for colony establishment. Cofee honey has a very good aroma and taste. There is indeed a good market for quality honey and pollen. Congratulations for the sustainable bee program and  we hope you can reach out more communities of farmers.