Honey has been called “bee vomit”—often in jest—since at least 1982. Some honey products have had “bee vomit” on the label, and “Honey is really just bee vomit” has been printed on T-shirts.
However, honey is technically not bee vomit. The honey that is made has not been digested and has never reached a bee’s intestines.
10 May 1982, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), “Bugs in your bread? It’s just good protein, if you can swallow it” by Rudy Maxa (Washington Post), sec. 4, pg. 2, col. 4:
“We eat honey, but it probaby wouldn’t see if it was called ‘bee vomit,” which it is,” Weisberg says.
(Kay Weisberg of the Insect Zoo at the Smithsonian Institution.—ed.)
3 November 1983, Playground Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, FL), “Questionable man-on-the-street ideas kept me from pounding pavement” by Del Stone, pg. 1B, cols. 4-5:
Another thought-provoking question: “Now that you know that honey is really nothing more than bee vomit, will you be having honey on your toast at breakfast this morning?”
20 July 1986, Centre Daily Times, ‘Professor fries up batches of bugs for sudents, guests” by Ellen Schechet (Knight-Ridder Newspapers), pg. E-3, col. 5:
And people who eat honey are actually eating bee vomit, since bees collect nectar from flowers which they carry in their stomachs until they spit it into a honeycomb.
12 August 1990, Bluefield (WV) Daily Telegraph, “Entomlogist says we should eat more bugs” (AP), pg. F-6, col. 4:
For our culture, insects are outside the realm of food. The glaring exception is honey, which is bee vomit, essentially.
The Straight Dope
Is honey really bee vomit?
March 13, 1992
The bees collect the nectar from flowers and store it in their “honey stomachs,” separate from their true stomachs. On their way back to the hive they secrete enzymes into it that begin converting the stuff into honey. Once in the hive they yuke up the nectar and either turn it over to other workers for further processing or else dump it directly into the honeycomb. The bees then beat their tiny wings to fan air through the hive to evaporate excess water from the honey. Last they cover the honeycomb cell with wax, figuring hey, we worked like dogs, but at least now we’ll be able to get a snack whenever we want. Suckers. The humans steal the honey, pack it in bottles, and there you go — direct from the bees’ guts to yours.
Google Groups: rec.food.cooking
Is there a Best Bee Vomit?
Meg Worley () wrote:
: Sue writes:
: >Now… I wonder what Meg thinks about bee vomit, er, honey?
: Don’t want to let you down, Sue-bee: I can’t stand honey.
: I’m okay on chicken-periods, though.
Gee, Meg, everything tastes better with bee vomit on it.
(Known as Hell Yes East of the Rockies)
I like to dip slivers of sharp cheddar cheese in honey.
All About Bee Vomit, AKA Honey | Don’t Be Dumb
Stuff You Should Know - HowStuffWorks
Published on Apr 2, 2014
You love honey. You eat it all the time, honey lover. But what you’re eating is bee vomit. How’s your precious honey taste now?
Honey Is Not Bee Vomit
Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Published on: October 6, 2014
Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, who retired this June after 38 years of service, says: “I make the distinction between honey bee regurgitation and mammalian vomit based on the fact that the nectar and honey being processed by the bees never have direct contact with food being processed, or expected to be processed, ‘digestively’ as is the food in a mammalian stomach.”
“Although many sources refer to the honey bee crop as the ‘honey stomach,’ it is not a place where consumed foods are being digested in honey bees.”
In their book, Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping, authors Dewey Caron and Lawrence John “Larry” Connor define the honey stomach as a a “honey sac.”
It’s “an enlargement of the posterior end of the esophagus in the bee abdomen in which the bee carries the nectar from flower to hive.”
Honey Bee Suite
May 11, 2015
Honey is not bee vomit
Why do people insist that honey is vomit when observation says otherwise? Seriously, does it look like vomit? Smell like vomit? Taste or feel like vomit?
Animals don’t build storage units for vomit, they don’t save it for winter meals, and they don’t rob each other of it. My guess, although I’ve never experimented, is that most vomit has a short shelf life and an in-your-face pull date. And antibacterial properties? Hmm, let me think.
In fact, the nectar a bee collects never goes into its digesting stomach or into its intestines. The nectar goes into a honey stomach where it is stored for a short time and mixed with special enzymes. But between the honey stomach and the bee’s digestive stomach is a one-way valve, a check valve of sorts. If the bee needs some fuel, some of the nectar can go through this valve, but once through, it can’t go back. Nothing from the bee’s digesting stomach or the bee’s intestines can return to the honey stomach.