Local Monofloral Honey in Guangdong, China

22 01 2015

About 4.5 years ago, when I was teaching high school in the countryside in Hunan province, I decided to give myself a Chinese name. Most of my students could barely speak English, so this gave them something to latch onto and everyone remembered it easily. The name I chose was not standard or traditional in any way – it translated to Ms. Honeybee White – but it made sense to me and to the students. (original post here).

One of those students went on to study English in the same city where I live now, and we get together regularly for food and adventures. We have a good connection. And she knows my love for bees well.

Schefflera octophylla - ya jiao muSo well, in fact, that she gave me something quite special last week. She has a friend whose family works with bees around Zhao Qing (肇庆) a city of about 4 million in Guangdong province. My friend put a request in for winter honey. It doesn’t get that cold here, so there are flowers year-round. This particular honey is monofloral – it is derived from a single type of plant. In this case, it is a tree: Schefflera octophylla, also known as Australian Ivy Palm, umbrella tree, octopus tree, and in Chinese, ‘ya jiao mu’ (鸭脚木, yā jiǎo mù) or ‘duck foot tree’. The bark of this tree is considered to be medicinal in China.

Duck Foot Tree Honey from GuangdongThe honey appears to be unfiltered, and I am assuming since it came from a personal stash, it was not adulterated. In terms of colour grading, it could probably be classified as a ‘white’ honey. It is light in colour, light golden. (See my article on honey quality, including a section on colour grades here).

The taste is very interesting. The initial flavour is a mildly bitter tang, which is immediately chased by a lovely sweetness. My first try was on its own, of course, but I added some to my morning oatmeal, and it was positively delicious.

Honey is precious. Every time you eat it, remember that a bee, during the span of her life, only produces 1/12 teaspoon. This container above represents the contributions of thousands and thousands of these beautiful beings.





Finally! Some Southern Chinese Honey Bees!!!

22 08 2014

It has been ages since I posted here on Bees Alive! and I sincerely apologize for that. Part of the problem is that I relocated to Southern China once again, and as with all of my experiences in this part of the country, I have a hard time finding bees. I’m not sure why. There are tons of other flying lovelies – wasps galore, dragon flies, butterflies, moths, argh – mosquitoes. But bees? Two summers in Hainan and a year in Guangzhou yielded not a single sighting. It is a sad state of affairs, alas.

But then! A few months ago. I was, for some reason, looking out the sliding glass door leading on to my balcony, and my eyes detected action. There is a very tall tree growing beside my balcony, a few of the branches of which overhang. The tree was flowering (I’m not sure what kind of tree it is yet, but after some investigation and once I figure it out, I’ll update the post), and it had managed to attract some friends of the winged variety. I grabbed my camera, and popped outside for a closer look.

Honey bees!!! As well as some wasps and other critters. Unfortunately, the flowers are small, and when that happens, bees move frequently and quickly instead of staying for a photo opportunity. But I managed to get a few average shots which I’ve included below. My delay in posting has been the result of losing my camera cord as well as access to an SD card reader, but I’m equipped once more.

honey bee in guangzhou, china

 

Notice the half-full pollen sacs in this next photo. Yes, I have a soft spot for pollen sacs…

pollen sac on southern Chinese honey bee

 





Pittosporum and Honeybee in Nanjing, China

29 04 2013

Let’s celebrate. Bee season is off to a running start in central China, and I caught a few photos today. I’ve identified one of the flowering bushes so far (this is a Pittosporum), so I’ll start by posting two photos of the plant, one with a honeybee deeply engrossed.

Pittosporum and Honeybee - Nanjing China - April 28 2013

Pittosporum - Nanjing China - April 28 2013





Chinese Magnolias

18 03 2013

It’s spring. Flowers are popping up everywhere. The all-important Chinese plum blossom season has come and gone. Now, the magnolia trees outside my housing complex have blossomed, and I was able to get out there myself today and photograph.

After doing a little research, there are what I believe to be two different species of native magnolia trees here. One (see the white blooms) is the Magnolia denudata (玉蘭 – yù lán – literally ‘jade orchid’), also called the Yulan magnolia – a symbol of purity. The other (purple blossoms) is the Magnolia liliiflora species (木兰 – mù lán – literally ‘tree orchid’), also called the Mulan magnolia.

Enjoy these beauties below.





Acacia Honey in China

21 01 2013

Chinese Acacia Honey - yang huai feng miFrom time to time, I buy a jar of Chinese honey. It makes sense. After all, I live in China. Why not buy local? Of course, Chinese products are often suspect in some way – many Chinese folks I’ve spoken to are suspicious of honey coming from their own country, and as I’ve written about before, they have a reason to be. But I’ve also written that it’s impossible for us to avoid toxins completely given what we, as humans, have done to our world. So Chinese honey and whatever chemicals it contains makes their way into my kitchen.

Robinia pseudoacacia 004This time round, I secured a jar of acacia honey.  One of the more common monofloral honeys, this honey comes from the false acacia tree  (洋槐 yáng​ huái – black locust tree or Robinia pseudoacacia). The tree grows in warmer climates in Europe and North America, but it also grows in China. The honey is usually rather light in colour, but can have an amber hue (particularly if it has been pasteurized) like in the jar you see here.

Acacia honey has a higher fructose content than most honeys. As a result, it tastes sweeter – you will likely need less to sweeten your tea – and it probably won’t crystallize like most honeys will over time.

See other posts on my Chinese honey adventures:





November Bees in Nanjing

13 11 2012

One thing that I was excited about in coming back to China was catching some bee action. There is a different species of honeybee here – the Eastern honeybee or Apis cerana. I keep a photo gallery of bees from my travels as well as contributions from site visitors. I have a few from my time in Hunan province. Sadly, in the 5 months in 2011 and the 2 months in 2012 I spent in China’s tropical Hainan, I only saw bees once, and I didn’t have my camera with me. But today on a walk in northern Nanjing, I not only came across a massive and impressive spread of urban community gardens, but I spotted a honeybee picking up some autumn nectar as well as some pollen. Check her out below:

Apis cerana in mid-November in Nanjing China

Apis cerana in mid-November in Nanjing China

Apis cerana in mid-November in Nanjing China





Frangipani, Anyone?

23 09 2012

Ji dan hua - egg yolk flower - frangipani - plumeria - Haikou, Hainan, ChinaOne of my favourite flowering trees found in the tropics is Plumeria, commonly known as frangipani. They grow in abundance here in tropical China, where they are known as ‘ji dan hua’ (鸡蛋花) or ‘egg yolk flowers’. I find when I pass by them, I inevitably pick up a flower than has fallen and carry it with me on my journey, occasionally smelling it absentmindedly. Not only it is a simple and beautiful flower, but its perfume is intoxicating.

sphinx moth - by the Garden Helper - http://www.thegardenhelper.comIt is actually more fragrant at night. Sphinx moths are the pollinators, and these night creatures follow the deceptive scent in search of nectar. Nectar they don’t find, but they do end up pollinating. Sneaky tree.

Check out some photos of the tree and a few varieties of flower growing around my building at on site at my place of work.

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Pink Frangipani - plumeria - Haikou, Hainan China - September 2012

Pink Frangipani - plumeria - Haikou, Hainan China - September 2012

Branches of an egg yolk flower tree - Frangipani - Plumeria - ji dan hua shu - Haikou, Hainan, China








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