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Pine honey is a type of honeydew honey. It is produced by honey bees that collect honeydew (sugary secretions) from a scale insect species, Marchalina hellenica, which lives on the sap of certain pine trees. When the scale insects feed, they excrete waste in the form of honeydew. Depending on local honey production laws, the product is sometimes not allowed to be classified as honey.
In other languages, pine honey is referred to in various ways. In the Serbian and Croatian languages, the word for honey is "med," but when it is made of insect honeydew, it is called "meduljak" or "medula". In Romanian, it is called miere de pădure, meaning "forest honey", or miere de mană, meaning "manna honey."
The pine species on which Marchalina hellenica can be found include the Turkish Pine (Pinus brutia) and, to a lesser extent, Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis), Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Stone Pine (Pinus pinea). The insects hide in the cracks and under the scales of the bark of these trees, beneath a white cotton-like wax they secrete.
The physical characteristics of pine honey are controlled by the higher resin and lower water content of the Marchalina hellenica honeydew from which it is made. Color is always darker than medium honey but typically lighter than buckwheat honey; density and viscosity are both higher than medium honey; smell and taste are reminiscent of pine sap. Because of its high density, some consumers say that pine honey is superior in its ability to satisfy the appetite.
Pine honey is found in areas where pine forests are plentiful during the honey collection season, and conventional sources, such as flowers or fruit tree blossoms, are few. It is produced mostly in the Middle East, the Balkans, Serbia and on Greek mountains and several islands. It can also be found in some heavily forested areas of Germany, Norway and New Zealand.
The most rare Pine Honey is the Fir Honey of Mainaloy known as Banilias (vanilla). It comes from the black fir forest of Mainalo in Arcadia, Greece, and is famed for its flavor and for the small concentration of sugars. It is a unique honey with a Protected Name of Origin (POP), and it received a gold medal in Paris in 1996. It is an uncommon category of honey, with fantastic flavor and a perfume suggestive of candy or vanilla. This type of honey has problems with fluctuations in production. It has less moisture than other honeys, and because of its alkalinity,(i.e. high pH), it never crystallizes .