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Pine honeydew honey in Turkey
İrfan Kandemir, Department of Biology, Ankara University, Tandogan 06100, Ankara, Turkey
Keywords: Apis mellifera, beekeeping in Turkey, honey bee, Marchalina hellenica, Pinus sp
Turkey is the country producing most pine honeydew honey. Pine honey is collected by bees from another insect, called Marchalina hellenica. This pine tree parasite is found only on the Aegean coasts of Turkey, Greece and Italy. Marchalina hellenica feeds on branches of the pine tree and its body produces a sweet secretion known as honeydew. This sugary secretion is then collected by honey bees and converted by them bees to the honey known as honeydew or pine honey.
Marchalina hellenica lives on red pine and other pine species including coastal pine Pinus halepensis, Scotch pine Pinus sylvestris, and nut pine Pinus pinea. The honey obtained from red pine (Bodenheimer 1953; Besceli and Ekici 1968; Giray 1970; Tosun 1976; Canakcioglu 1977; Selmi 1979; Gürkan, 1989; Karsavuran et al 2001; Ulgenturk et al 2004) is the most important. The insect obtains nutrients from the pine's sap (20% protein and 80% carbohydrate), however, to get enough nutrients to grow, the insect sucks more sap and filters it. Later it excretes the excess juice. This juice is sugary and is collected by honey bees. Bacandritsos et al (2002) showed that the pine sap contains a high proportion of sucrose (>40%), considerable fructose and smaller amounts of glucose and maltose.
Depending on the climatic conditions of the region the female insect produces a cottony mass and deposits 200-300 eggs underneath this in late March. From mid May to June hatching starts and young insects leave the cottony mass and move to the pine twigs and branches, where they insert their mouthparts and feed on the plant saps (Schimitschek 1944; Canakcioglu 1977). The larvae moult three times, each time changing their feeding position. The first drops of honeydew appear around mid August, and the quantity increases according to the size of the insect. These insects have been introduced to other regions of Turkey, but without success. There are some reports of successful introduction to other forest trees like firs (Bacandritsos, 2002). Nowadays, due to global warming, the number of scale insects is decreasing, and this is influencing the amount of secretions produced, and directly reducing pine honey production.
Nowadays the scale insect is economically important for Turkish Beekeepers. However, for a long time it was regarded as a parasite that should be controlled to save the pine trees. Yet there was no evidence that the scale insects had any harmful effects, and the main activity period of the scale insects does not overlap with the main growth period of the pine trees. There is still some debate as to whether the scale insect is a harmful parasite, but its benefit for the beekeeping sector is well known.
Starting in late August, all of Turkey's migratory beekeepers aggregate in this famous south-west corner where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean, in order to collect these precious sugary secretions. Thousands of colonies assemble on the roadsides by forests to get close to the insects on the pines. You should come and see the beauty of this congregation beside the high mountains!
In 2008 a group of people in the Beekeepers' Safari arranged by TEMA and BfD witnessed the beekeeping, pines and the scale insects. We hope for success for both species, Apis mellifera and Marchalina hellenica, as well as for these beekeepers here in Turkey.
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Bacandritsos N. (2002) A scientific note on the first successful establishment of the monophlebine coccid Marchalina hellenica (Coccoidea, Margarodidae) on the fir tree (Abies cephalonica). Apidologie 33 (2002) 353-354.
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