Honey from poisonous flowers

zsnp(FL)December 12, 2004

I know that oleanders and azaleas are poisonous. Oleanders

have been used to make rat poison. Their roots, branches, leaves,

flowers, and even their seeds are deadly. But I like

oleanders very much because of their nice flowers.

What happens if a bee collects nectar from a poisonous plant?

What happens if I eat that honey?

Would I die?

Do you know if anyone has ever died from honey?

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Yes, honey from oleander or azalea is poisonous, and yes you could die from it.

See: http://www.wssa.net/photo&info/other_info/Oleander.htm
and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey

Not all harmful plants yield poisonous honey though. Honey from Poison Ivy has no harmful effects for example.

Poisonous honey does look to be pretty rare based on the info I've seen.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2004 at 8:24PM
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treebeard(z5 MA)

When we first started beekeeping years ago, we were concerned that honey from certain flowering plants might be harmful. Rumor had it that honey from Rhododendrons could be harmful. Our place, at that time, had plenty of Rhodies. A little research into the subject showed us that, yes, honey that came strictly from those kind of plants might have harmful effects, but as those plants were in significant minority among the local flora, the nectar arriving in the hive from the huge variety of flowering plants in the area would, at the very least, dilute any potential poisons. So, we didn't worry beyond that point.

If you live in an area where the vast preponderance of flowering plants are oleander and azalea, you might have reason to be concerned. But if they're a few among the larger varied majority, there's likely little cause for concern.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2004 at 2:01PM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

and I understood it was undercured honey from rhodos and azaleas that were the problem, and it went away if the honey was ripe.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2004 at 10:21PM
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Is the nectar harmful to bees and butterflies? I have several oleanders on my deck in the summer and they are always in flower. In Florida they are everywhere. So there must have been research done on whether the nectar is harmful to insects and birds. Anyone know a site where I could check this out?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2005 at 1:40PM
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Yes, oleander nectar also harms bees and butterflies. A tenured entomologist and beekeeper from Univ of TX who showed up at the beekeepers meeting of Central TX to lecture to us about toxic oleander nectar's negative effects on hives of cultivated and wild bees. For more info you could probably contact Univ of TX at Austin's entomology dept.

The oleander plants can be pollinated and the oleander nectar is harvested by the insects just fine since it is a dilute toxin. But once it gets into hives the toxin gets concentrated because the bees dry out the nectar by fanning it with their wings. And then, when they feed the concentrated nectar (honey) to the young bees, the concentrated toxins from the TOXIC oleander nectar die, and the hive dies.

And the toxin from oleanders can also make butterflies and hummingbirds ill, if oleanders are a main source of nectar for any one butterfly or bird.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 6:13PM
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Don't worry about them collecting nectar from Azaleas because they won't. Also watch out for yellow jasmine that produces poisonous honey. Happy Beekeeping! -Alex

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 8:46PM
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Even though this is an old thread, thanks to those who posted. I am starting a hive and have some of these plants on my property. Last summer I planted an oleander. Fortunately, it is small. I have dug it up and will destroy it. I also have an azalea which looks like it's on its last legs, so probably wont be a problem. Rhodies, a few.

Now I'm a little concerned - I have a buckeye. It looks like the species to look out for is 'California buckeye', which is not what mine is. They are mentioned in the URL below.

I also read that Japanese Pieris can be toxic. I have that, too.

I have a feeling that as long as there are lots of other nectar sources, a few of these wont be a problem.

Here is a link that might be useful: plants with toxic nectar

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 12:05AM
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mattyb1(10A San Diego)

We have lots of Oleanders on our property, that bloom almost year round, and we have never seen a single bee foraging on them. We live on an extremely dry native sage brush canyon and during late summer/fall the nectar flow is very low but still, they refuse to go to Oleander.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 2:29PM
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As a general rule, nature's critters are smarter than we give them credit for.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 2:34PM
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