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This Just In: Honey DNA

September 28, 2017

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Hemlock Honey for Halloween? Honey DNA continued...

October 11, 2017

For all you honey DNA geeks out there, we got a response from the lab to my questions about the DNA results.  As I mentioned in my last post, we found our honey to have over 30% Hemlock pollen - a big surprise because there aren't that many Hemlocks around.  This means our bees must be seeking them out or favoring them in some way.  Bees can travel as far as five miles from the hive to collect pollen.  


I had asked the lab to share with us what they are learning from the samples of honey they process, and to give us an idea of how our results compare.  Their samples are limited to the New England area, and there aren't a lot of them yet, but I still find it fascinating, and fun to share. 


Our sample, with 247 species of pollen found, fell into the high end.  The majority of samples had around 100; the highest over 300.  There was only one other sample from Vermont, and its majority pollen type was from the Pea family.  I think these results  speak first to the amazing resourcefulness of the bees.  They also reflect the special biodiversity of our area in Vermont, and New England in general.


But what about the Hemlock?  Socrates was famously sentenced to to death by Hemlock.  In case anyone was worried about the potential of our Hemlock honey being deadly, just in time for Halloween, you can rest assured that ours is NOT the poisonous kind.  


The lab experts at Best Bee in Boston volunteered this:


Your sample was the highest we have seen yet in Hemlock pollen!  We have found hemlock pollen in a sample from Bedford, NY (.70%), Lincoln, MA (.33%), Sudbury, MA (.14%), and Medfield, MA (.12%).  All samples were taken from the beehives we manage in June 2017.  Your 28.23% hemlock genus and 5.92% Southern Japanese Hemlock is much higher.  It is not to be confused with poison hemlock.  Poison hemlock is a species from a separate...

genus (Conium)

family (Apiaceae)

order (Apiales)

class (Magnoliopsida)

phylum (Magnoliophyta)


Where the hemlock found in your honey is from,

genus (Tsuga)

family (Panaceae)

order (Pinales)

class (Pinopsida)

phylum (Tracheophyta)



An extra point on (natural) poisons:  The lab continued to inform us, that although honey bees are also very attracted to poison ivy & poison oak pollen, the honey produced is harmless to people.  Who knows, maybe eating poison ivy honey might help lessen the allergic reactions to poison ivy - worth investigating (in a lab, of course!).


We are looking forward to sending a new sample in every year!








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