toxicity of certain honeys

Arnold Trachtenberg
Thu, 25 Dec 2008 15:30:54 PST

See below.

There are several references to toxic honeys in the US.  The earliest
record of which I am aware dates back to Philadelphia in 1790, when a
child died from eating honey.  There are also references from the Civil
War and from the 1940's and 1960's.  The most recent report is the one we
found here in Virginia.  A beekeeper became violently ill after comsuming
some honey from his hives and ended up spending 6 days in the local
hospital.  We were contacted about the possibility of the honey causing
the problems and subsequently analyzed the honey.  We found two
grayanotoxins (primarily nerve toxins that lead to a prolonged
depolarization of the nerve)  in the honey in sufficient levels to cause
very serious medical problems.  Based on the time of year, the area in
which the honey was made, and the toxins, we believe the source was Kalmia
latifolia (Mountain laurel).  This type of toxic honey is not common but
seems to be reported once about every 20 or 30 years.

There are a number of other plants that produce nectars with various
toxins.  Some of these include Yellow jassamine, tansy ragwort, and
Egyptian henbane. If you would like more infromation on plants and
specific toxins, please let me know.  Hope this answers some of your

 Rick Fell

Rick Fell
Department of Entomology
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg,Virginia 24061
Tel. (540) 231-7207

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