Honeydew Honey in Canberra?

Hi all

I’ve recently taken some late honey from two of my hives, and one of them has produced honey with quite a bitter lingering aftertaste. Almost like grapefruit bitterness. Not really to my taste, but maybe some people like it.

I’ve had bitter honey from a fellow beekeeper before some years back - it was a little different - but their belief was that the bees had been feeding on ivy.

Then there’s honeydew honey, which sounds a lot like what I’ve got (though I’m not sure how dark this batch is, and I’ve read that honeydew honey is usually quite dark). Seems that we’ve certainly had a lot of bugs around this summer, including aphids and maybe others that may produce honeydew. I can’t seem to find mentions online of honeydew honey in Australia though.

Anybody else have any ideas on what may produce a bitter honey in Canberra?

Where are you located in Canberra, There has been some other honeys with this after taste. We believe the honey was sourced from Snow gums which flowered well this season. I would suggest we do not have the level of honey dew production in Canberra likely to cause this effect.

Hi Mervyn, thanks for your reply.

We’re in Evatt, quite close to the CSIRO farm (I had wondered about all the conifers there actually).

The sister colony produced a normal slightly bold tasting late harvest. No overt bitterness.

Had some odd tasting late honey a couple of years back too (though more of a scent than a taste). I did actually harvest it that time, and friends who took some thought it was quite ok! Not really to my taste though.

In this instance I’m letting the bees keep it all!

Conifers do not contribute to honey but certainly are the source of the gums with which they glue everything down. Interesting that only one hive has the flavours but I have long held the view that each hive might tend to collect from its own floral source. (Not tested of course). Would be interested to know what flora are available in that area. What are some of the streets around you. Just a couple of other thoughts how is the hive beetle infestation in your hive (sliming possibility) and wonder if they have found an odd source eg somebody has thrown out say fruit or solutions which have gone off. do you have a bit of the honey would be interesting to see what pollen is in it.

Hi Damien,

I rather doubt that we have much aphid produced honey (Honeydew honey). In other places around the world, Autumn produces the ivy and goldenrod crops which is also unlikely here.

I’ve noticed that dandelions are rather common in Canberra in Autumn, and not much else is flowering. I’ve heard that dandelion can be quite bitter, but I’ve not experienced tasting it personally. Dandelion is usually a major Spring flow while is other regions around the world so keepers don’t harvest much of it as the nectar is eaten by the growing colonies, and it doesn’t sell well. We have the eucalyptus trees that bloom in early Spring instead.

What your hive is collecting can be very localized. My hive is located only 1 km away from another keeper and we had very different honey over the Summer and Autumn. My Autumn honey was much darker and richer while he had very fruity and light honey during the same time period.

Yes, I get the feeling it would contribute very little here, as much as we seemed overrun with aphids in our own garden this year!

I think I agree with Mervyn’s theory that even different colonies can bring home vastly different sources. I have noticed quite different flavours between our two hives.

No sign of slime or hive beetle infestation (just a couple in the fringes of each hive). I’ve had a bitter honey a few years back, and I also recall a honey from a fellow beekeeper that was heavily bitter (she thought bees feeding on ivy was the issue with that batch).

Our girls were pretty active just earlier this week when it was warm and fine - I wondered what they may be bringing home. I passed by some heavily flowering hakea up on Black Mountain on Sunday. Too far for our colonies, but I do wish we had some nearby. They smelled strongly of honey - just like a hive - and were covered in bees!