Bracatinga Honeydew Honey

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Melato or honeydew is a term which in biology refers to sugary liquid secretions produced by a great number of different Homoptera insects, living as plant sap-sucking parasites. These sugary liquids are sought for and collected by bees just like proper nectar, and then undergo the same processes used to make floral honey. The final product, however, is “honeydew honey,” different in physical, chemical and organoleptic properties.  

Bracatinga honeydew honey is derived from secretions of cochineal insects, which populate the stem of the bracatinga (Mimosa scabrella) tree. The bee that harvests the dew for the honey production is the Apis mellifera. The bracatinga tree is native to moist forests of Araucaria trees, an ecosystem typically found in the south of Brazil, especially in areas of regeneration. However, the area where cochineal insects live in symbiosis with bracatinga trees, is limited, and found mainly in the municipalities of Bom Retiro, Urubici, Rio Rufino, Lages, Bocaína do Sul, Correia Pinto, Otacílio Costa and Ponte Alta on the Planalto Serrano Catarinense, a plateau in the state of Santa Catarina. The secretion of honeydew is biennial, occurring only in even years, and the harvest takes place between March and May. Honeydew honey is of a dark color and a little less sweet and more bitter than most floral honeys.  

For many years honeydew honey was difficult beekeepers of Santa Catarina to produce. They were very careful to remove their bees from certain spots before the floral honey could be “contaminated” with honeydew honey. Those who ventured to produce it had many problems selling it. In 2000, however, the product found great acceptance as an export product to Germany, and today it is the highest priced honey in the country. About 450 tons of bracatinga honeydew honey is produced in even years in the area, most of which is exported. It is sold locally in some specialty shops in Florianópolis, the capital of the state.  

While the honeydew honey itself is not endangered, its existence is closely linked to the maintenance of the Araucaria moist forests – an ecosystem highly under pressure due to productive businesses developing in the southern regions of Brazil – and the functioning of its natural processes of regeneration. Despite being a pioneer plant, which benefits from the regeneration that follows processes of degradation, bracatinga is also threatened by direct use. Its fast growing wood is used for construction, as firewood for drying tobacco and in bakeries.

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