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Species of Apis are generalist floral visitors, and will pollinate a large variety of plamts.but by no means all plants. Honey is produced by domesticated and many wild bees from the nectar of flowers and other plant secretions. The bees combine those fluids with other substances to make honey, which they store in their hives.



Honey has been around as long as bees and man has used it as a sweetener and food since the earliest times. It is still one of his richest and most useful food substances.

A rock drawing near Valencia in Spain that dates back to 15,000 B.C. shows two men climbing up cords to reach the nest of a swarm of bees. And beekeeping was being practiced along the banks of the Nile in Egypt at least as early as 3,000 B.C.

Since spring and summer come earlier to Upper than to Lower Egypt, beekeepers would place their hives on boats and descend the Nile in stages as the flowers and other plants bloomed. Ancient literature teems with references to bees, honey and beekeeping. The Greek lyric poets and Solomon, in "The Song of Solomon" and "Proverbs," repeatedly describe honey as a delectable food that should be eaten in happy times among people who enjoy one another's company. The Romans, a more practical people, left various testimonials to the numerous preparations in which honey was a principal ingredient. Apicius gives some recipes that have allowed us to reconstruct the nature and type of Roman desserts. But it was as, or even more, widely used in ancient cuisine than sugar is today.


Honey is a complex of invert sugars and an unequaled source of energy. The principal ingredient is derived from the transformation of sacrose by an enzyme, invertase, that is secreted in the intestines of bees. Honey sugar practically cannot be crystalized and always retains a certain degree of humidity.

Sensory Characteristics

The consistency, aroma and flavor of honey depends on the vegetation of the area where it is produced. Honey is collected in spring and fall but the spring harvest is always better. The nectar from some plants, especially absinthe, confers disagreeable odors on honey. The sweetest honeys are those made from the nectar of rosemary, orange and acacia blossoms and lavender. Colors range from transparent yellow to extremely dark brown. Acacia honey is straw yellow, while that from heather and linden blossoms is greenish. Chestnut honey is brown, while orange-flower honey is amber with reddish shadings.

The odors of honey are also determined by the flowers from which the nectar is gathered. Some types of honey are highly odorous, like those of acacia, lavender, thyme and linden, while others have only weak aromas.

Honey's fluidity is determined by the amount of fructose it contains.


Two species of honey bee, Apis mellifera and Apis cerana, are often maintained, fed, and transported by beekeepers. Of all the honeybee species, only Apis mellifera has been used extensively for commercial pollination of crops and other plants. The value of these pollination services is commonly measured in the billions of dollars.

Apis mellifera, known as Common (or European) bee, is the most commonly domesticated species, is the third insect to have its genome mapped. It originated in Tropical Africa and spread from there to Northern Europe and East into Asia. It is also called the Western honey bee. There are many sub-species that have adapted to the environment of their geographic and climatic area. Behavior, color and anatomy can be quite different from one sub-species or race to another. In 1622, first European colonists brought the sub-species Apis mellifera mellifera to the Americas. Many of the crops that depend on honey bees for pollination have also been imported since colonial times. Escaped swarms (known as wild bees, but actually feral) spread rapidly as far as the Great Plains, usually preceding the colonists. The Native Americans called the honey bee "the white man's fly". Honey bees did not naturally cross the Rocky Mountains; they were carried by ship to California in the early 1850s. The so-called "killer bee" is a strain of this species, with ancestral stock of African origin (thus often called "Africanized"). In early 2007, abnormally high die-offs (30-70% of hives) of Western honey bee colonies in the US were attributed to a condition dubbed "Colony Collapse Disorder".

Subspecies originating in Europe:

  1. Italian bee (Apis mellifera ligustica, classified by Spinola, 1806) - the most commonly kept race in North America, South America and southern Europe. They are kept commercially all over the world. They are very gentle, not very likely to swarm, and produce a large surplus of honey. They have few undesirable characteristics. Colonies tend to maintain larger populations through winter, so they require more winter stores (or feeding) than other temperate zone subspecies. The Italian bee is light colored and mostly leather colored, but some strains are golden.
  2. Carniolan honey bee (Apis mellifera carnica, classified by Pollmann, 1879), Slovenia - popular with beekeepers due to its extreme gentleness. The Carniolan tends to be quite dark in color, and the colonies are known to shrink to small populations over winter, and build very quickly in spring. It is a mountain bee in its native range, and is a good bee for cold climates. It does not do well in areas with long, hot summers.



Pag’s sage-blossom honey is the most popular honey on the Croatian market because of its medicinal properties and ecological purity. It is well known that Pag’s sage contains more essential oils than the sage that grows on the surrounding islands and coast-lands. Special weather conditions: bora and salt, contribute to the high quality of this honey. From ancient times, sage has been used in healing problems with nervous system and for stimulating suprarenal glands. It helps with the problems of depression, neurosis, vertigo and tremor. Moreover, it is purported to cure cough attacks and periodontosis.


Determined by origin:

  1. Miele di nettare: Honey obtained primarily from the nectar of flowers.
  2. Miele di melata: Honey obtained principally from plant secretions other than nectar and determined by method of extraction:  
    1.  Miele di favo: Honey stored by the bees in honeycombs they have constructed themselves. It must not contain larvae and is sold in the comb.
    2.   Miele con pezzi di favo: Honey that contains one or more pieces of comb.
  3. Miele scolato: Honey that is drained from the comb and contains no larvae.
  4. Miele centrifugato: Honey separated from the comb through use of a centrifuge and containing no larvae.
  5. Miele torchiato: Honey obtained through pressure and not containing larvae. Moderate but not high heat may be used.

Labeling: Required declarations: The word miele (honey) in all cases, with the possibility of adding the name of the place of production as provided for the different types. Miele di favo (honey from the comb), miele con pezzi di favo (honey with pieces of comb) and miele di brughiera (heath honey) must be identified as such.

Permitted statements:

An indication of the floral or vegetal origin of the honey, as long as that origin is correctly stated and if the honey possesses the proper sensory, physical-chemical and microscopic characteristics (Miele di Corbezzolo (Arbutus Honey) or Acacia Honey)

A regional, territorial or topographical name, if the honey originates entirely within the declared area (such as Italian Honey, Honey of Tuscany, Honey of the Crete Senesi and Honey of Montalcino).

The honey may be described as vergine integrale, as long as it has not been subjected to any type of heat for the purpose of preserving it.

Karst (Carniolan)

  1. Miele di Acacia del Carso - Il miele uniflorale di acacia è molto conosciuto ed apprezzato per il sapore delicato, con un sentore leggermente vanigliato e retrogusto di mandorle amare.
  2. Miele di Marasca del Carso -Si caratterizza per il colore ambrato con riflessi rossastri e un gusto amarognolo che ricorda l’aroma delle mandorle.
  3. Miele di melata di bosco del Carso - Miele dal colore è scuro o molto scuro con sentori di caramello, di frutta secca.
  4. Miele di Tiglio del Carso - Miele dal colore ambrato chiaro dal sapore lievemente amarognolo caratterizzato per il gusto molto fresco di mentolo e di erbe officinali.
  5. Miele friulano di Acacia - Ha odore molto delicato con un profumo che ricorda la pera cotta. Il sapore è molto dolce con una connotazione di frutta cotta.
  6. Miele friulano di Castagno - Miele di colore ambra chiaro se puro, con colorazioni scure quando è mescolato con la melata con un sapore amaro, persistente.
  7. Miele friulano di tarassaco - Si presenta di colore giallo con riflessi ambrati. Ha un odore molto intenso e pungente.
  8. Miele millefiori del Carso - Questo miele se prodotto nella prima parte della primavera è caratterizzato dall’aroma amarognolo della marasca , mentre se prodotto più tardi è caratterizzato da aroma delicato di varie leguminose erbacee.
  9. Miele millefiori della montagna friulana - Si presenta con colore che varia dal bianco-beige molto chiaro a beige scuro. Di norma ha un odore delicato e un sapore normalmente dolce.
  10. Miele millefiori della pianura friulana - Se prodotto nella prima parte della primavera è tendenzialmente chiaro dato dal nettare di tarassaco; se prodotto nella prima estate è di color ambra per del nettare di acacia; se prodotto da luglio in poi è color ambra scuro per la melata.


  • Source:
  • Text and images: Milioni Online Magazine - Miele -
  • Animations and background:- Marisa Ciceran

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Created: Monday, December 25, 2000; Last Updated: Friday, August 26, 2016
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