Since ‘on the go’ breakfast products have bypassed the breakfast table, the art of smearing honey across a slice of crunchy toast or swirling it on your cereal has shown a bit of a slump. Honey is now also competing with other new highly marketed sugary spreads available. Yet there are great health benefits in bringing honey back to the breakfast table, such as its low Glycaemic Index or GI. (The lower a food’s GI rating, the slower you absorb and digest it, which means a more gradual and healthier infusion of sugars into their bloodstream and helps keep ‘hunger pains’ away for longer).
New Zealand’s Manuka (the NZ name for tea tree) honey is famous for its anti-bacterial power and Tetsuya raves about the Leatherwood honey from Tasmania and South Western Australia where many of the trees don’t blossom till more than 70 years old.
Here in Tropical North Queensland there are a number of apiarist manufacturing honey with very distinct tropical flavours. If bees have access to where a particular blossom predominates, they produce honey with a flavour and colour typical of that plant. Our tropical honey tends to be dark amber in colour with wonderful flavours of red mahogany, Molloy box, grey box, rainforest, macadamia, mango, guava and a number of other exotic blossoms that are unique to this region.
Where larger honey manufacturers blend honey from many apiarists, local honey is often pure honey from one hive. The honey is also most likely to have had less process treatment of preservatives or heat searing so the nutrition and flavour is in its purest form.
However we have one threat to our honey industry that first appeared inside a mast of a yacht here in Cairns in 2007 and that is the Asian honeybee. These aggressive little bees compete with our European honeybees for local flora. They rob honey from hives, which may cause hives to die, but most importantly Asian honeybees are a natural host for mites and other unwanted bee pests and diseases, a major threat to Australia's honeybee industry.
The Asian honeybee has been found nesting in tree hollows, under the eaves of houses, in the recess under the floor of houses, in letterboxes, in a cable reel, and in various other urban locations. It is smaller than European honeybee at approx. 10 mm long, flies fast and erratically, is less hairy than the European honeybee and has distinct yellow and black stripes on the abdomen. So look out for this little blighter and call Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 to help save our local honey.