Honeybee gathering poison ivy nectar

Honeybee gathering poison ivy nectar (from Wikipedia)

When considering the many varieties of honey it is natural to wonder if any of them might be toxic. Possibly those made from toxic plants? The short answer is, yes, if the nectar contains toxins then they will be concentrated in the honey. A longer answer may be found in a post on Miss Apis Mellifera that elaborates on the topic, explains why it is usually not a problem, and mentions some known sources of toxic honey.

One plant not mentioned but one about which we in Michigan (as well as other states) might wonder is poison ivy. While individual sensitivity varies, this wretched vine is notorious for causing a painful rash when touched, due to the allergen urushiol in its sap. Even after a plant has been long dead it is not safe to touch for the urushiol remains. And should one carelessly toss a log with an unnoticed vine still clinging then the urushiol can ride the smoke and cause a rash in the lungs interfering with breathing, possibly fatally so. Imagine our joy to learn that climate change is making it grow faster and more potent. As a final insult, humans are among the very few animals troubled by urushiol, the rest being some other primates and guinea pigs.

Now that our readers are sufficiently horrified, especially those only now learning that the wretched vine even has flowers, we can comfort and reassure by revealing that, for all its evil, poison ivy does not belong on the toxic honey list. Mercifully the urushiol does not appear in its nectar so poison ivy honey is safe to consume. How very fortunate since there is probably some poison ivy contribution to local multifloral honeys. The wretched vine certainly grows on our own property although we do our best to eradicate it.

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