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Non-human uses of honey[edit]

The article seems to be largely about honey and humans. Should there be a section on the attraction of (both wild and farmed) honey to many other species? Tony Holkham (Talk) 12:08, 12 May 2016 (UTC)

I don't see any reason why not. There are lots of animals that eat honey, and some have rather inventive ways of getting it, but I would want to avoid turning it into a trivia section. As long as everything is well-cited, it shouldn't be a problem. Zaereth (talk) 07:30, 14 May 2016 (UTC)


  1. In my version I have used the most accurate definition suggested by Eva Crane, which explains the ecological role of honey as opposed to just plain nectar: "Honey is a sugary food substance produced and stored by certain social hymenopteran insects, for consumption in dearth periods. Honey is produced from sugary secretions of plants or animals, such as floral nectar or aphid honeydew, through water evaporation and enzymatic activity. The variety of honey produced by honey bees (the genus Apis) is the one most commonly referred to, as it is the type of honey collected by most beekeepers and consumed by most people. Honey is also produced by bumblebees, stingless bees, honey wasps and honeypot ants, but these types of honey have different properties compared with honey from the genus Apis."
  2. water evaporation and enzymatic activity is what makes nectar into honey, it should appear in the second sentence. This makes the last sentence about honey bees converting nectar etc. superfluous.
  3. the quantity is lower? ref for this? How do you measure the quantity? How do you compare different species, with differing colony sizes and nest sizes?
  4. Not all beekeepers keep honey bees (unless you define them narrowly), and people also consume stingless bee honey.
  5. You removed the second sentence claiming it was unsourced, and now you say the refs are unneeded?! Please leave the refs unless the material is repeated in the paragraphs below - which it isn't! Future editors are more likely to distort the opening, defining sentences, if they don't see a valid ref.
  6. Gidip (talk) 06:29, 5 January 2017 (UTC)
First, please keep in mind the most recent set of diffs[1] incorporated your recent edits while tightening up the language significantly while also formatting for a WP:LEDE where sources generally aren't listed since that information usually should be in the body already first. There was no reason for a revert on quite a lot of that, especially considering the lengthy explanation in the edit summary followed by the "no justification" comment. The content I removed was partly extraneous wording that wasn't needed as well as sources (though Crane 1990 remained as a rare case because we don't have that info in the body, but it is relevant for the lead).
On 1 and 2, again, this was just condensed and rearranged slightly to include some relevant text from the lead before the recent edits, especially relating to how honey is produced. That's especially for the rearrangement on honeydew so it doesn't seem like honeydew is being called a type of honey. Also keep in mind that the article currently is primarily about honey bee produced honey, so in terms of WP:WEIGHT assigned by sources, honey bees are going to get mention in the lead until that changes (this also addresses 4). To get information about how honey is produced by other taxa in the lead, someone would need to write a section on that (probably something like Non-honeybee production), and then consider how that should be incorporated into the lead. Personally, just mentioning that other species produce honey like was done in both lead diffs is enough even if a new section was created. I also can't recall if there is still debate on whether what bumblebees produce is truly honey or just stored nectar, but that's something to potentially check into as well.
On 3, I thought this was referenced lower down in this article, but I was remembering a different one. I've pulled up one such reference quick on that.[2] All that matters is that overall production is low without worrying about variation in colony size, etc. It's pretty much just honey bees that are producing large amounts of honey (and worthwhile for raising honey for human consumption), whereas species like bumblebees do not stockpile honey is such large quantities. I'm aware of research looking into other insects being used to produce honey, but that again would need to be fleshed out in the body more before being considered in the lead where we could consider due weight. Kingofaces43 (talk) 07:30, 5 January 2017 (UTC)
I find written disputes totally exhausting. I have written down my rationale, now let the system distort it as needed. I hope new edits build on my revisions rather than go backwards. I guess I'll stick to Hebrew Wikipedia for now.
I am citing excerpts from Crane's paper (1990) for the use of other editors. I haven't found any other citeable source that discusses the definition of honey in the biological/ecological sense (rather than the commercial or legislative one):
"Honey can be stored without risk of spoilage, by social insects that produce it from the nectar or honeydew they collect from living plants. The insects include all Apis spp. (Apinae), almost all Meliponinae, all Bombus (Bombinae), honey wasps in the Polistinae, and honey ants in the Formicinae and Dolichoderinae. "
"In this paper honey is considered as a food substance produced by colonies of all honeybees (Apis spp.), and of certain other social insects, that they can store safe from spoilage and consume in dearth periods. The nectar or honeydew collected by insects usually contains much more water that honey does, even up to 80% of the total weight. In the colony, the insects evaporate water from the liquid, and in so doing they add to it glandular secretions containing several enzymes. "
"Adopting a wider concept than honey as a product of one species, genus, or family of social insects, an attempt at a biological definition might start: «Honey is a substance produced by honeybees and some other social insects from nectar or honeydew they collect from living plants, which they transform by evaporating water and by the action of enzymes they themselves secrete»."
I strongly recommend reading the full (short) paper by other editors. Gidip (talk) 07:56, 5 January 2017 (UTC)
One problem I see is that there is a danger in being too academic in the definition of the terminology, sometimes to the point of ignoring the subject, and this is especially true in the lede. An encyclopedia should be written for a general audience, which includes everything from college professors to elementary-school children. The lede should use simple language, avoiding jargon, and be written using commonly -understood terms. The lede should define the subject as quickly and simply as possible, because one or two paragraphs are typically all an elementary student will read. College-level prose and academic jargon should be saved for the body of the article.
I use the word "subject" because an encyclopedia is about things not words. (Dictionaries are about words.) In academic prose it is common to define words as they are to be used within the context of the study, journal, or paper. In example from above, "In this paper honey is considered..." note how she is quick to define the term as she specifically uses it within her paper. That is a good sign that her definition varies from the general norm. Since an encyclopedia is about the thing, this article should focus on the specific type of honey commonly used by most people; that produced by the honeybee. In the general language, honey from other insects is typically considered to be a different thing, so it should have a different article. That may change in the future, because language is never permanent, but it's both not our place and disingenuous of us to try and manipulate it ourselves. Zaereth (talk) 22:34, 5 January 2017 (UTC)
After sleeping on this and rereading the source, I agree with your comments on the honey definition. The source more or less says it is not the mainstream definition to refer to honey as something other than from honey bees. It's been awhile since I've looked at sources on this, but I do believe what bumblebees, honeypot ants, etc. produce is not even considered true honey, but just stored nectar instead. Something to do some digging on.
Zefr, it looks like you may have fallen for the exact mistake here I was trying to prevent in my copy edits before they got reverted. Where you inserted bee honey, you're basically saying bees make honey from honey. What you replaced was honeydew. That's a separate sugary secretion produced by aphids that bees can on occasion use as a sugar source to make honey as described in this article. Does that make sense to you with this most recent edit I made trying to clarify that? Also in that edit, I restored the term regurgitation from the last clean version before January. Bees don't really digest nectar to make honey in the formal sense, but just carry nectar to the hive, barf it up, and then process it for storage as honey. Kingofaces43 (talk) 01:18, 6 January 2017 (UTC)
Your revisions are fine, Kingofaces43. I thought Zaereth's summary was excellent, and was trying to make the lede more concise without confusion about more minor honey sources (aphid). I would also be ok with fewer references in the lede, as you suggested. Thanks! --Zefr (talk) 01:32, 6 January 2017 (UTC)
Another thing to consider is that many of these other types of honey do not come from nectar at all but from saps, so they often have a woody or syrupy taste. The chemical composition is different, lacking a lot of the aromatic and aliphatic acids which come specifically from the flowers. Zaereth (talk) 01:36, 6 January 2017 (UTC)
For now, the language in the lede says "such as floral nectar" without excluding other plant sources. We're at least not technically incorrect for now, but mention of non-floral plant sources could be a worthwhile subsection at the same level as Honey#Floral_source. Kingofaces43 (talk) 01:43, 6 January 2017 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Sounds good. I wouldn't want to give any more mention to honeydew and aphids in the lede than we currently do, but since we cover it in the briefly article, it does bear extremely minor mention that plant sources are not the only source. That inclusion balances the technicalities without getting too far into the weeds. Kingofaces43 (talk) 01:40, 6 January 2017 (UTC)

A few more comments to consider:

  1. I find it odd that the current version gives even less emphasis to non-Apis honey types than the version that existed before my first edits. They are suggested by the general definition in the opening sentence, but that's it. The other taxa aren't even mentioned anywhere.
  2. Limiting the article or the definition only to Apis would clearly be misleading, even in the "human" aspect of the term. Stingless bee honey is definitely produced by beekeepers and consumed by humans. I haven't heard of any term other than "honey" to describe the sugary product of stingless bees. In Eva Crane's book The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (browse it here), she discusses the same groups of honey-producing insects mentioned in her paper, and demonstrates how each group was hunted for its honey, and nests of most groups (except honey ants) were even owned and tended (pp. 99ff, 141ff).
  3. "Regurgitation" applies to honey bees but not to all other relevant taxa, so I would remove it (not critical though). I think water evaporation is most important and should be mentioned first.
  4. "[Honey bee honey] is the most common" - what does this mean? This is very ill defined. I would rather say it is the most familiar, the most common in human use, or something of the like.
  5. I think mentioning that there are both a broad and a narrow definition can provide a solution to the problems mentioned above (simple language etc.)

If I have the time and patience, I might elaborate on the non-Apis issues in a separate section of the article. Gidip (talk) 04:32, 6 January 2017 (UTC)

An example that always comes to mind are articles like alloy wheel. People often argue that this article should contain information about steel wheels as well, because technically steel is also an alloy. However, steel wasn't considered an alloy until recently. It was actually around the 1930s that science began to describe it as such, and the 1970s before the general population followed. The term "alloy wheel" has not yet caught up to this definition, so we have to go with the common usage of that word and define the subject accordingly.
I think it's a great idea to summarize those other types of honey here, perhaps even with a small section on them to provide a "main article" link to those other types, but this article is about a specific type. In example, the term tempering has many definitions, from the tempering of chocolate and spices to the most common definition of tempering steel. It would be unwise to have a single article for every definition of the word. Instead the linked term is a DAB page, and the most common definition is under tempering (metallurgy). According to policy (and common practice for encyclopedias since Pliny the Elder), different things that share the same name get different articles while the same thing that has many different names gets only one article. Zaereth (talk) 09:03, 6 January 2017 (UTC)
All types of honey share many characteristics in common, both biologically and from the human aspect, as the refs I have given clearly show. There is a simple definition that describes all of them and excludes other similar substances. So there should definitely be a single article dealing with the broad definition of honey and comparing its different types. The comparison in itself is important and instructive, and is an example of convergent evolution. A second article, if desired, can deal specifically with honey bee honey, since there is so much information on that specific type (maybe also a third article about meliponine honey). Gidip (talk) 18:07, 6 January 2017 (UTC)

Pesticide Residue in Honey[edit]

Could this article use a section about pesticide residue and resulting health effects under the "Health Hazards" section? Noticed it wasn't included in the article and there is a fair amount of science on this topic. Elizell66 (talk) 22:01, 23 February 2017 (UTC)

If you have good sources then I don't see why not, but I'd be very careful when getting into claims about health. The way I see it (and perhaps others will have a better view) it could be handled one of two ways: 1.) It could either be a separate section just talking about pesticides and their subsequent levels, etc., and you won't have much problem, or 2.) it could be included under the Health hazards section, but then we would need descriptions of those specific hazards and extremely good sources to back them up. (And expect some debate.) Zaereth (talk) 22:14, 23 February 2017 (UTC)

Psychoactive honey varieties[edit]

There are a number of psychoactive honey varieties across the world. Would this warrant a section? I was thinking under the "floral source" section. Elizell66 (talk) 22:26, 23 February 2017 (UTC)

Unlikely to exist. The sources would have to be WP:MEDRS-quality. --Zefr (talk) 22:53, 23 February 2017 (UTC)

Undue sentences in lead[edit]

Per WP:LEAD, According to the policy on due weight, emphasis given to material should reflect its relative importance to the subject, according to published reliable sources. I think that the current lead reads more like a summary for a dietary supplement, than for an important foodstuff with history spanning thousands of years and important worldwide production. In particular, undue emphasis (almost a half of the lead) has been given to rather marginal medicinal issues, which make up less than a fifth of the article.

  • People who have a weakened immune system should not eat honey because of the risk of bacterial or fungal infection. – taken verbatim from the text (which is OK), which is not elaborated in any way or form there (which is not OK). It seems to contradict the statement that microorganisms do not grow in honey so it dodges the question what makes it adversely related to immunocompromised persons? Maybe it comes from a MEDRS-compliant source but it's so vague to be useless. An anyway, how serious is the risk of eating honey to deserve a mention in the lead?
  • Re infant botulism: the article itself admits that U.S. has much higher rates: 1.9 per 100,000 live births, which is still negligible. Where are the RS that make infant honey botulism poisoning so important to deserve a mention in the lead?

There are still other shortcomings in the lead and the article: no mention of its #Physical and chemical properties in the lead; almost no mention of beekeeping and technological proscessing; heck, the lead fails to even mention that it is liquid or viscuous. I only removed the two most glaring ones, and I don't think that the feedback "not useful" was useful. Compare and contrast with Britannica's abstract . No such user (talk) 14:38, 19 June 2017 (UTC)

Wikipedia is governed by different rules than Britannica, which sometimes has rather strange entries. Anyway the RS for the medical aspects are strong, and our article has a medical section (with three subsections) so medical content is good in the lede. Overall the lede is too short for the article, but that's no argument for making it worse in this respect. Alexbrn (talk) 14:47, 19 June 2017 (UTC)
While I appreciate MEDRS, this is not a medicinal article, and medicinal and health aspects of honey are way overemphasized in the lead . And you even reverted my re-ordering into the same order as in the article text. You still didn't explain (and the article does not either) how immuno-compromising and botulism risks from honey are so important to be stressed in the lead (Botulism is not even mentioned in the lead of Canning, where it poses much greater risk) except that it's sourced to MEDRS (well, duh). While Britannica may have different rules than us, I used their abstract as a model what the most important aspects of honey are.
Anyway, I intend to expand the lead myself to cover those items, just I don't appreciate what I see as knee-jerk revert with rationale "but it's MEDRS, the holy cow"! No such user (talk) 15:02, 19 June 2017 (UTC)
The only person who has mentioned MEDRS, is you. Alexbrn (talk) 15:13, 19 June 2017 (UTC)

While getting up to speed on the recent discussions and disputes, the first thing that strikes me about the lede is the very broad definition of the first paragraph vs everything else in the article basically being about the honey from honey bees. --Ronz (talk) 17:17, 19 June 2017 (UTC)