Stingless Bees and Sweet 'n Sour Honey
The stingless bees found in the rainforest of Malaysia are about 1 centimeter in length, tiny when compared to regular honeybees or bumblebees. Just because they cannot sting doesn’t mean they are defenseless. They will bite if they feel threatened or if you disturb their nest.
However, there are close to 500 species of stingless bees on almost all continents globally, and most are located in the tropics. They can be classified in these two genera: the Melipona and the Trigona. The Melipona variety can be even larger than the common honeybee.
Stingless bee honey is considered by many to be a natural wound healer. These bees produce honey, pollen, and their own version of propolis, known as cerumen, which is used as storage pots for their honey and to mummify trespassers. These bees store pollen and honey in these large egg-shaped or round pots that they make from beeswax mixed with propolis.
This video is 51-seconds long and shows you what the stingless beehive looks like:
The Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI) reports that the great contribution of stingless bees is their ability to pollinate small-sized flowers since they are tiny, and this cannot be achieved by the larger honeybee.
Stingless beehive colonies are scattered around deep within the Malaysian rainforest. These bees have an abundance of flowering plants and trees around them and live far removed from any pesticides.
They do make honey, but it is different to the honey we are used to. Not as sweet as honey, it is slightly sour, tart and acidic and the consistency is more liquid than most honey. In some places it is considered a new "superfood” because it contains high nutritional value. The sweet and sour flavor with a hint of lemon makes the honey ideal as part of a deliciously refreshing drink when mixed with cold water, somewhat like lemonade. It replenishes the body on a hot afternoon, especially following physical exertion.
Since the bees are tiny and the colonies are small, it is not uncommon for the harvest to be about half a liter of honey from each hive in a season. There is no harvest during rainy season, when bees produce only enough honey for their own survival. Harvesting stingless bee honey is labor-intensive, requiring that the honey be sucked from each honey cup or honey pot at a time with a small vacuum pump.
Since the honey is very liquid, the honeycombs are built horizontally, so the honey doesn’t spill over, whereas most bees build honeycombs in vertical mode since their honey is viscous in comparison.
Ethical beekeepers do not cut corners by diluting the premium quality unadulterated raw honey with corn starch or molasses, maybe even sugar. This is a rare honey and the expense in acquiring it is well justified. It is labor-intensive, produces a small harvest in even the best of circumstances, and you have the peace of mind that these little bees live in a safe and remote area. All of this comes at a price.
Research is ongoing in Southeast Asia into the health benefits and wound healing attributes of this stingless bee honey.
Have you ever tasted bittersweet honey from the stingless bee? Tell us all about it over on our Facebook page! :)
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