Did you know that a good part of your honey may have come from insect poop. Yes, you heard that right, and I apologize if you’re drizzling honey on your cereal right now. A study of the DNA in honey carried out by Noah Wilson-Rich, an entomologist who founded The Best Bees Company, revealed that fact and other valuable information. The study sampled urban hives in major cities across the US and the preliminary results are surprising
The main sources of sugar in the honey tested did not come from wildflowers, but from trees, and not only from the blossoms; it also came from the excretions of sap-sucking insects, particularly aphids, those pesky critters that drive gardeners wild when they find them munching away on plants.
What goes in one end of a hungry aphid is the sap that the plant depends on to grow and flourish. Too many aphids and the plant can die. It’s what comes out of the other end of the aphid that attracts the bees. It’s a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew. Besides nectar from flowers, honeybees are slurping up honeydew, and there’s often plenty of it. We might see only a few aphids on plants in our gardens; up in the treetops there can be tremendous numbers — easy picking for bees, and there’s even more food available when a tree is in bloom, far more than in a garden below.
Another discovery made by the researchers was regarding the
types of trees and flowers the honeybees
preferred. Surprisingly, the flowers and trees favoured by them are not necessarily native ones. Honey bees don’t seem to care where lunch comes from. Even though coniferous trees are predominant in Seattle, the bees there favoured non-native linden and cypress trees.
Preferences varied from city to city because of the popularity of particular plants in a specific region. For instance, in New York, where even luxury hotels keep rooftop hives, the top three plants were locust and linden trees, and the flowers of sedum. In Portland, Oregon, known as the city of roses, no surprise that roses were in the top three along with begonias and sweet chestnut trees.
In San Francisco, where non-native eucalyptus trees have become an invasive species, there’s currently a debate going on whether to fell them or give them protection. The honeybees are not fussy. They’re such generalists, they don’t care that the trees are from Australia. They love them. Making up their top three favourites there are pine trees and rosemary.
Next time you hear buzzing in your garden, remember to look up, way up.