Honey is a supersaturated sugar solution with approximately 17 percent water. Besides carbohydrates, honey contains small amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals. Apart from its high calorific value, honey is known for its medicinal properties too.
Honey is produced by honey bees belonging to the genus Apis.
Apis dorsata, the giant honey bee, is very common in the forests of southern and couth-eastern Asia. The comb is approximately 1 metre across. Nest are mainly built in exposed places fat off he ground, on tree limbs and under cliff overhands. Apis dorsata is an aggressive bee and has never been domesticated as it does not use enclosed cavities for nesting. These bees are good honey gatherers with an average yield of 50-80 kg per colony.
Apis cerana indica, are small honey bees found in the forests of southern and south-eastern Aisa. Their honey yield is smaller, because they form smaller colonies. They construct multiple parallel combs with an average honey yield of 6-8 per colony.
Apis florae, the dwarf honey bee is another wild honey bee of southern and south-eastern Asia. These bees make exposed single combs build on branches of shrubs and small trees. They are poor honey yielders and yield about 200-900 g of honey per colony.
Trigona iridipennis are sting-less honey bees found in the forests of the tropics which make nests in hollow tree trunks and wall cavities. They yield 300-400 g of honey.
All the four types of honey bees are seen in the forests of Kerala.
Honey hunting or honey harvesting which involves robbing honey from wild bee colonies is one of the most ancient human activities and is still practised by aboriginal societies in parts of Africa, Asia, Australia and south America. Honey harvesting is a major means of livelihood of tribals in the forests of Kerala. Under the auspices of the Vana Samrakshana Samithies (VSS) and Eco-development Committees (EDC), the honey collectors have been trained in the last four years un scientific and non-destructive collection of honey and value addition by a process called ultra filtration. It is marketed though Forest Development Agencies (FDA) in attractive bottles.