Can you eat vulture bee honey?
In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat vulture bee honey?” and discuss what are the benefits of eating vulture bee honey. Vulture bees are unusual in that they prefer to consume carrion (dead animal flesh) rather than nectar from flowers, which is more common.
Can you eat vulture bee honey?
Yes, you can eat vulture bee honey. The enzymes in the human digestive system are capable of breaking down the honey of vulture bees. The honey is thicker and more viscous than other types of honey and it might be difficult to harvest.
Vulture bees are stingless bee species that also collect carrion, and a few have fully reverted to a necrophagous lifestyle, relying on carrion for protein and forgoing flower visitation altogether (1).
What are the benefits of eating the honey of a vulture bee?
The benefits of eating the honey of a vulture bee are that the products of this bee can be a good source of beneficial bacteria. In general, honey is a source of probiotics.
Probiotics are, according to the definition provided by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host (5).
Probiotics improve gut health and boost the immune response by generating natural antimicrobial compounds that can hinder harmful microorganisms responsible for an imbalanced digestive system in humans (5).
Various studies have demonstrated that probiotics can reduce the incidence of diarrhea, allergies, lactose intolerance, cancer, and also lower cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.
Besides their potential as a biological control agent and probiotic strains, bacteria found in the honey of necrophage bees are also a good source of antimicrobial compounds. Bacteria isolated from honey samples have shown antimicrobial activities against pathogenic bacteria (2).
What is the honey of a vulture bee like?
The honey of the vulture bee is sweet and of a pleasant odor. The honey is a result of a fermentation process of a mixture of ingredients collected by the bees.
When initially added to the containers, the stored substance has a consistency resembling paste and retains its original color. With time, the substance turns into a thick liquid and at the end of the maturation process, it is a uniform, yellowish, and honey-like substance.
Throughout the maturation process, several chemical reactions take place. The amount of free amino acids increases, as protein is hydrolyzed. At the same time, the concentration of sugars (both total and reducing) increases (4).
Studies demonstrate that macrophage stingless bees such as T. hypogea have various storage pots in their colonies that function as food storage, all containing a clear, honey-like liquid with a sweet flavor and an agreeable odor (3).
How does a vulture bee produce honey?
There are two theories regarding how vulture bees make use of carrion to produce honey. The first suggests that they chew flesh from the carcass and bring it back to the colony where it’s mixed with honey in pots.
The honey and flesh mixture then matures over two weeks, where this mixture is fermented through the action of bacteria, producing a paste that’s high in free amino acids and sugars (2).
The second theory proposes that the consumed flesh is utilized by young workers to produce hypopharyngeal gland secretions, similar to the process in honey bees (1).
Among stingless bees, Trigona hypogea group is remarkable for its obligate necrophagy. T. hypogea has two distinct food sources: flesh from carcasses (protein), and fruits and extrafloral nectaries (sugars).
However, stingless bees typically collect many different resources besides carrion, nectar and pollen, including insect secretions, rotten fruit, sap, resin, earth, feces, water, human sweat and sources of other salts (2).
In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat vulture bee honey?” and we discussed what are the benefits of eating vulture bee honey.
- Figueroa, Laura L., et al. Why did the bee eat the chicken? Symbiont gain, loss, and retention in the vulture bee microbiome. Mbio, 2021, 12, e02317-21.
- Hamzah, Syahir Amir, Norhasnida Zawawi, Suriana Sabri. A review on the association of bacteria with stingless bees. Sains Malaysiana, 2020, 49, 1853-1863..
- Serrão, J. E., C. da Cruz-Landim, and R. L. M. Silva-de-Moraes. Morphological and biochemical analysis of the stored and larval food of an obligate necrophagous bee, Trigona hypogea. Insectes Sociaux, 1997, 44, 337-345.
- Noll, Fernando Barbosa, et al. Food collection and maturation in the necrophagous stingless bee, Trigona hypogea (Hymenoptera: Meliponinae). J Kansas Entomol Soc, 1996, 287-293.
- Mustar, S., and N. Ibrahim. A Sweeter Pill to Swallow: A Review of Honey Bees and Honey as a Source of Probiotic and Prebiotic Products. Foods, 2022, 11, 2102.