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Poison honey from urban azaleas and rhododendrons foraged by my bees?

 
Posts: 105
Location: Ontario zone 4b
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I have always loved my aunts bee farm growing up as a small child the idea of home scale honey production was soo fascinating. Now i own my own home in a urban area with a decent yard with a nice garden im curious of the potential for keeping honey bees, the only problem is the bees arent going to stay in my yard i dont have a big property in a rural area. I have recently read about azaleas and rhododendron produce a poisoness nectar that when consumed in the form of honey by humans it can be fatal causing vomiting hallucinations and death. This is a serious concern for me, lets say  a nieghbour or someone in the area had azaleas or rhododendrons and my bees decided to land on them ..it could be dangerous for me to consume the honey. Any body who knows anything about this and if it is a problem would be awesome! Thank u.
 
gardener
Posts: 2781
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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We've got an old thread about this with a link to a well-researched article.  The upshot seems to be that you need huge monocultures of the toxic flowers in question for enough toxicity to enter the honey, and even then, it's only happened for real where beekeepers deliberately made it happen, because in smaller doses the honey in question has medicinal or recreational properties.  Everybody who has seriously looked into this seems to be in agreement that a few incidental blossoms in the miles-wide range of mixed flowers that bees forage will be so diluted by the wholesome nectars that it won't be a problem:

https://permies.com/t/39363/critters/Hallucinogenic-Mad-Honey-Turkish-Rhododendrons
 
gardener
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Location: mountains of Tennessee
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There's some crazy honey in the mountains of Nepal too. I'm sure other places as well. They go to insane lengths to harvest it. The natives hike straight uphill through a dense jungle all day. Then climb up huge cliffs with hand twisted vine ropes, etc. They use no face protection or bee suits. They light big fires below for the smoke. They get nasty stings. Then have to rush back down to the village before dark or the critters with big teeth eat them all. Must be some good stuff.

That being said, there's a 99.9999999% chance you'll be perfectly fine with a couple local hives in your backyard. Go for it. You're probably more at risk by eating store bought honey than from any kind of azalea or rhododendron poisoning. I'd be willing to bet a little bit of those is even good for you.
 
pollinator
Posts: 255
Location: NE Slovenia, zone 6b
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From the quoted article:

“There are more than 700 different species [of rhododendron] in the world, but according to our knowledge just two or three include grayanotoxin in their nectars".

With that - and the dillution that comes from the fact that ornamental bushes in people's gardens are a very small part of the bees' working area - you should be perfectly safe.

Our village is on acid soil and people love their rods and azaleas. There was never a problem in the admitedly short time of my beekeeping here (5 years). I consider agricultural chemicals a larger potential risk than rhododendrons.
 
pollinator
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Location: Australia, Canberra
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You have one of the best medicinal honeys ever on your hand (depending on the concentration)

Rhododendron honey produced in Black Sea region of Turkey is highly sought after and medicinal (very expensive too). Of course if you eat too much of it, you will either hallucinate or vomit from both ends.

1 tsp every morning on empty stomach is the dosage.

It cures inflammations, keeps immune system strong, very powerful antioxidant, good for swollen tonsils, claimed to clean the blood, keeps veins healthy.

The bee who is collecting rhododendron nectar is a special bee which is evolved with the alkaloids and other chemicals in the plant. If you replace the queen with a foreigner, they can't carry the nectar and pollen anymore from the plant to the hive.
 
Jordan Johnston
Posts: 105
Location: Ontario zone 4b
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Very cool! Thanks everyone for the feedback its all very helpfull.
 
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