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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 !




imagem de Ame Locsin

Dear Mr. Gilford,


     I am glad you brought up this topic.  I was in Europe recently and was informed that as per customs guidelines, honey was a product that wasn't allowed in.  That made sense to me since I am sure they wanted to protect the local beekeeping industry from possible entry of new pests and diseases. But what surprised me was their definition of honey.  It seems they consider honey as that produced only from A. mellifera!  Which means I could legally have brought in honey from A.dorsata and Tetragonula Biroi.  Now that got me thinking.....what do they think other bee species produce?  Why limit their definition of honey to that produced only by A. mellifera?   Very strange indeed!



Ame Locsin

I think the EU legislation must have been writen by a beauracrat who knew nothing about bees! This is a strong reason for ensuring that the Bee Unit at UPLB has a significant input to the legislation on the philipines, so you get a better definition of what honey is.

I am ashamed to see how many postings from Malaysia in the socila media and in the Malaysian press where VIPs (High ranking govt officials and prominent political representatives) are depicted sucking honey from a straw directly from live Meliponine hive honey pots. Farm owners are proud to have prominent figures visiting their farm with the members of the press clammering to snap 'prestigous' photos. The owners and reporters shoo the common public away holding a straw to be handed to the VIP for the "priviledged" opportunity to suck directly from the honey pots.

The next day, it headlines in the local newspaper reporting how certain Govt Depts in Malaysia has been given the responsibility to set Honey standards (esp. the medicinal Meliponine honey) for the country, right below pictures of the VIPs candidly sucking through straws directly from the honey pots. The farm owners so proudly take those newspaper cuttings and post them to the social media for the whole world to see.

This is just like a Restaurant that serves left over drinks (merely replacing new straws) and advertising it to the whole world. Robert Irvine (Restaurant Inpossible) and Gordon Ramsey (Hell's Kitchen) will have a field day.

My contention is how can we set standards when traditional practices like this are being proudly promoted by local leaders of a community? Proper SOPs and eradication of unhealthy practices need to be exercised first before honey authenticity protocols are adhered to. Only then we can have a concrete Codex for Meliponine Honey (I pray and hope, at least for the ASEAN level).

Abu Hassan Jalil


imagem de Ame Locsin

Dear Mr. Jalil,


    I find these images disturbing from a sanitary point of view!  I would never allow anyone to take honey from my hives in that matter.....it's basically like sharing a softdrink with a group of people and everyone drinking from that one straw!  Quite disgusting and certainly demeaning for the bees!



Ame Locsin

When unchecked they even put the whole face into the hive box!


Dear Mr. jalil:

I agree  that we need to observe good beekeeping practices before addressing  the issue of authentication and standardization of honey. It is a challenge to all of us who are advocating for raising the bar for tropical honey.Thank you for sharing your insights.


Its really absurd that such a thing as drinking honey through a straw right from the hive should happen. However, we need to understand something about these so called VIPs. THey are people who will do anything to maintain their popularity with people just as bullies do in school. The other thing is that being a VIP does not overnight transform one from ignorance of something to a proffessor. These are people who mind about what benefits them and very little on what matters. It is a good thing that their are people that are very interested in protecting the bees and the integrity of honey in Asia. Let us embrace our God-given responsibility of advocating clean, fair food for everyone. Let us all open up a war on all social media, teaching to everybody what we believe and love about the bees and honey. It is not the responsibility of our brothers and sisters in Asia alone but all of us around the world. What happens today n Asia f un checked might tommorrow happen in the Us and elsewhere. God willing, we shall have many prodigal sons come back to the fold

From South Thailand, Peninsula Malaysia to the Island of Borneo, There is abundant Dipterocarpaceae which are known as rich sources of reservatol oligomers. Studies suggests this group of constituents exhibit a range of biological activities which include antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti hematotoxicity, anti tumor, cytotoxic effects and other sctivities (Muhammad et al. 2012)

Meliponine species of the genus Homotrigona, Odontotrigona, Platytrigona, Tetragonilla & Tetrigona are Dipterocarp dependant and exhibit use of hard and brittle propolis in nest structure, storage pots and nest entrances. The honey from these species have distinctively different tastes and exhibit high antioxidant activity possibly enhanced by the presence of micropropolis and pollen particles from their Dipterocarp hosts.

Standards and authenticity protocols for this type of honey surely has to be different from the other species of Genus Heterotrigona, Tetragonula, Lepidotrigona, Geniotrigona and others. These genus are not dependant on dipterocarp trees. How would you suggest we look at this matter?

Attached files: 

Stingless bee honey has a unique taste. Those who are accustomed to eating honey from Apis species will have a new experience when they try the stingless bee honey. It tastes a little sour.

Melliponine beekeepers should exert effort in promoting this kind of honey.

This is in reply to the post Dipterocarp vs. non-dipterocarp.

We should determine the composition and antioxidant properties of the propolis from  ALL the plants that the bees gather propolis from.  Then, from the data, we could get the range of antioxidant activiy per species or at least per genus.  

Based from our studies, all propolis have varying degrees of antioxidant properties; with the melliponone species having higher antioxidant activities than the apis species. we have yet to establish standards for the antioxidant activity of honey and propolis. we have not determined the exact compositions of our local propolis. There are still many unknown peaks in the chromatograph of our propolis. We need to consolidate data from asia and other countries before we can set a standard. we need more studies on propolis.