There are different varieties of honey. They differ not only in their botanical origin, but in the region of origin as well. For example, acacia honey harvested in Dobrudzha is not identical to the same type of honey harvested in Frankfurt or the state of Utah.
In general, natural honey might be categorized into two large groups – honeydew and nectar honey types. Nectar honey in turn is divided into polyfloral honey and monofloral honey. Those two terms are quite common on the Internet or on the honey market.
Theoretically, monofloral honey is produced by the nectar of a single plant (as implied by the prefix “mono”), for example sunflower, acacia, lavender, etc. In practice, however, it is not exactly the way things go. It is almost impossible to find pure monofloral honey. Bees cannot be restricted or instructed as on which blossom to alight. Which means that monofloral honey contains nectar from various plants, while the nectar of one single species is predominant in its composition as a raw material. A 100% pure monofloral honey could be obtained if bee colonies were isolated on an island with only one kind of melliferous plant grown. Just imagine an island where there are no other plants but sunflower, acacia, rape seed, or thistle.
A microscopic analysis of pollen grains contained in honey may reveal both the botanic and geographic origin of honey and pollen, as this is the surest way to prove the origin of honey. This method is mandatory in the honey qualification procedures in the EU countries.
In order to classify certain honey variety as monofloral, the pollen from the respective plant species should not be less than 45% of the total pollen in honey. For example, if we are to determine a variety as sunflower honey, the sunflower pollen should not be less than 45% of the total pollen quantity in the sample tested. For linden and acacia types, the percentage should be no less than 30%, and for lavender honey – 15%.
The science that deals with pollen analysis is referred to as melissopalynology. In Bulgaria, melissopalynology is poorly developed in contrast to the countries in Europe and America where melissopalynological studies are closely related to practice. In our country, pollen content in Bulgarian honey and bee pollen is examined in the “Applied Palynology” Laboratory of the Biological Faculty at St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia.
Polyfloral honey contains nectar from different plant varieties blooming at the same time (flowers, herbs, fruit trees, herbaceous plants, essential oil, forage, woody and other varieties of melliferous plants).
In hilly and mountainous regions, mostly polyfloral honey is obtained, while in lowlands, where certain melliferous crops are planted over large areas, monofloral honey is obtained in certain months of the year. In Bulgaria, the monofloral honey varieties that are of commercial importance (because of the greater yields) include acacia, linden, sunflower and rapeseed types of honey.
Globally, there are many types of monofloral honey (several hundred in number). Some say that honey is like wine. With some varieties, only connoisseurs can detect the subtle differences and peculiar characteristics.
Some prefer polyfloral types of honey because of the wider range of plants involved in the complex combination concentrated in a teaspoon of honey. Others choose certain varieties of monofloral honey because of the flavor, health effects, etc. they have due to a specific honey variety.
In Bulgaria, and globally, polyfloral honey varieties are not so highly demanded, yet they have their loyal supporters.
What is most charming about polyfloral honey varieties is their uniqueness. Each hive collects nectar from different flowers and thus two bee colonies give the bee-keeper two different types of honey, even if they belong to the same apiary. So we are offered some “health”, each time of different composition, diligently collected from different herbs and flowers by those industrious workers who never rush through their duties.