A Unique Non-Wood Forest Product: Pine Honey


Pine honey, a very unique non-wood forest product, is a different type of honeydew honey produced in Turkey. The annual production amount as the average of several years is 15.000-30.000 tons. It comes mainly from Muğla province, then the others as Aydın, İzmir, Antalya, Balıkesir. (2014; 20-25.000 tons, 2015; 10-15.000 tons, in extrem years 30-35.000 tons)

1 kg pine honey is about 3 $ at the field, and approximately 10 $ at the market at retail for the consumers. If we take the annaul production as 20.000 tons and the price as listed above, the annaul net  contribution is 60 million $ at the field and 200 milions $ at retail prices.

This article mainly prepared by İsmail Belen, a Forest Engineer with the help of  some articles and information provided by different partners and stakeholders listed at the end of page.

Beekeepıng in Turkey

Beekeeping is a traditional agricultural activity performed nearly every region in Turkey. The earliest findings concerning beekeeping in Anatolia are encountered in the Hittite scripts discovered in Bogazkoy around 1300 B.C. Furthermore, the bee motif referring to Goddess Artemis has been used on the coins printed in the Ancient city of Ephesus. Beekeeping in Anatolia has been maintained, keeping its importance ever since the periods before Christ.

Honey and honey bee has important role in Turkish culture both religiously and literately.

One of the Surats of Ou’ran named as “The Bees”   In the 68. Ayat  Allah the Almighty says; “Your Lord revealed to the bees: “Build dwellings in the mountains and the trees, and also in the structures which men erect. Then eat from every kind of fruit and travel the paths of your Lord, which have been made easy for you to follow.” From inside them comes a drink of varying colours, containing healing for mankind. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who reflect” (16: 68)

Also The Prophet says “Make use of the two remedies: honey and the Quran” amongh the other very distinguished hadits.

There are plenty of proverb, idioms in Turkish language.

  • Hastaya verecek balın, dosta verecek arın olsun. Has honey for patient and pudicity for friend.
  • Arı gibi eri olanın, cennet gibi yeri olur. Who has husband like a bee, has a place like heaven.
  • Arı, insanı haberi olmadan zengin eder. Bee makes rich people without knowing.
  • Arı bal alacağı çiçeği bilir. Bee knows the flower to make honey.
  • Balsız kovanda arı, bacası tütmeyen evde karı olmaz. There is no bee in the honeyless hive and no woman in the flueless home.
  • Arı kuvvetli olursa balı Bağdat’tan gelir. If bee is strong, honey come from Baghdad.
  • Arısız bahçe, kraliçesiz saraya benzer. Garden without bee looks like a palace without queen.
  • Sineğin balı, tembelin malı olmaz. There is no such thing like honey of fly and riches of lazy.
  • Arı söğüdü, akıllı öğüdü sever. Bee likes willow as genius likes advice.
  • Arı ile karının sırrına erişilmez. Bee and woman are unfathomable.
  • Arı hastaya şifa, sağlama sefa verir. Bee gives healing to patient and pleasure to healthy one.
  • Arıya bak bal olsun, dağa bak bağ olsun. Look a bee turns honey, look a mountain turns to yard.
  • Sadece bal arısı bir çiçek bulduğunda diğer arıları davet eder.- Only the honey bee invites other bees when it finds a flower


Today, beekeeping is carried out in all of Turkey’s provinces.

Having the climatic benefit of enjoying all four seasons, the country possesses many bee races and ecotypes, which easily accommodate themselves to the diverse ecologic conditions there, and highly rich floral resources which provide nectar and pollen throughout the year.

The fact that each region of the country has specific environmental conditions of its own and that the flowering periods in these regions are different than one other are the reasons to engage in migratory beekeeping by beekeepers who aim for higher production amounts.

The country’s temperate regions, primarily the Mediterranean and the Aegean, are preferred by beekeepers for such reasons as wintering their colonies, obtaining a rich nectar and pollen source, and benefiting from the relatively early start of spring.

In addition, there is a considerable source of honeydew on the pine trees in the southwest of the country. This source makes up approximately a third of country’s honey production.

It is known that 20 % of the 25 bee subspecies in the world are in Turkey. Turkey is the native home to the Anatolian (Apis mellifera anatolica), Caucasian (Apis mellifera caucasica), Syrian (Apis mellifera syriaca), and Iranian (Apis mellifera meda) races and sub-races since millions of years. These races and sub-races are available as Caucasian in the country’s northeastern part and Black Sea shores, Iranian in the southeast, Syrian in both the south and the southeast, and Anatolian bees and sub forms in the remaining parts of the country, including Thrace and Central Anatolia.

Apis_mellifera,I_SD10779 Backfast yerli

Because of the extremely diverse conditions of the country, the Anatolian bee exhibits substantial morphological and physiological differences.The Mugla ecotype is the most widespread ecotype, being the one that has best adapted itself to different conditions. Its fast development due to high yield of offspring and its high rate of honey production on pine trees distinguish it form other races. Its tendency to swarm and its aggressiveness, however, have been found to be higher than in other groups. In the crossbreeding of Caucasian males with Mugla queens, the brood yield has been found to be higher by 97% than with the Caucasian. Another important ecotype is found in Marmara Region, especially in Thrace. This ecotype is likely to have taken shape under the influence of the Anatolian bee and the Eastern European bee.


Administrative and Legislative Structure Related to Beekeeping

Beekeeping is mainly related to food security, rural development and animal products. So the main Ministry responsible for beekeeping is the Ministry of Food Agriculture and Livestock. http://www.tarim.gov.tr/

Under this Ministry, General Directorate of Livestock is the core unit focused on beekeeping.  This Ministry has branches in provinces and districts.  According to legislation on the ground beekeepers have to work in close cooperation with this Ministry.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Forests and Water Affairs is responsible to regulate beekeeping issues carried out in forests or forest related areas like grasslands inside or close forests.

General Directorate of Forestry is the main unit under Ministry of Forest regarding beekeeping issues. When people would like to let their beehives inside or close to forests, they need to negotiate with foresters. This is also the case for National Parks.

GDF has an “Pine Honey Action Plan” as follows http://www.ogm.gov.tr/ekutuphane/Yayinlar/Bal%20Orman%C4%B1%20Eylem%20Plan%C4%B1%20(2013-17).pdf  More information about GDF’s activities can be found at this following link http://www.gonder.org.tr/?p=1193  The first regulation related to beekeeping signed by the Minister goes back to 2nd March, 2010. This legislation has been written by Ismail Belen, as a first and final draft then submitted to the Minister. Arıcılığın-Desteklenmesine-İlişkin-Bakanlık-Talimatı-2-Mart-2010

Besides governmental agencies there are several NGOs and unions for beekeeping. Union of Turkey’s Beekeepers Association (www.tab.org.tr)  is one of them. This NGO headed  by Mr. Bahri Yılmaz, a senior Agriculture Engineer and beeekeeper as himself, is also very active at international arena.  The 45th Apimondia International Apicultural Congress 2017 will be held in Turkey from Friday, 29 September 2017 To Wednesday, 04 October 2017.

There are also some research institutes dealing beekening like;

There has been numerous meetings and consultations with government agencies, reserachers and beekeepers as well as NGOs on this issue.

Muğla-Çam Balı Sempozyumu1Muğla-Çam Balı Sempozyumu2ortak akıl

Plants Suitable for Beekeeping

The plants that are a valuable source of nectar for beekeeping and yield good quality honey can be classified in three groups; cultivated plants, naturaly growing plants, and tress and shrubs. Cultivated plants include leguminous forage crops and industrial crops. The primary plants in this group are clovers, esparcet (Onobrychis sp.) and colza, which are planted as forage crop. Cotton and sunflower as ındustrial crops are highly important cultivated plants for beekeeping. Turkey is highly rich in terms of this kind of plants. These are plants that usually yield quality nectar, and they are of great importance for beekeeping. The most important ones are thyme, sage, lamium, melilot, chicory, lavender, mint, spring vetch, and other species.

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Turkey has valuable species in terms of trees that produce nectar and secretion. Acacia, linden, eucalyptus, pine, heath, various fruit trees, willow, black locust, maple, chestnut, Erica, and oak are among the most important trees and shrubs in terms of nectar and secretion (honeydew) production. The flowers of fir trees and certain coniferous trees don’t secrete nectar. Only the wastes released by certain aphids and the leaks of old needles from the preceding year are a source of honey for the bees. Pine honey is great importance for Turkey’s honey production and exports.


Beekeeping is of great importance in terms of:

  • its  contributions to plant pollination and human health,
  • protecting of biodiversity and maintaining biodiversity for the sake of the next generations,
  • ensuring food security and increasing food diversity,
  • improving  sustainable development of rural areas,
  • creating job opportunities,
  • Increasing export proceeds.


Pine  Honey in Turkey

Pine honey is produced from honeydew secreted by the insect Marchalina hellenica  (Gennadius) which is restricted to Pinus brutia Ten and Pinus halepensis  Miller. This type of honey is produced only in Greece and Turkey. Honeydew honey was regarded as insect excrement by consumers. Beekeepers made no effort to market the quality of pine honey, nor to inform their customers about the real value of this honeydew honey. Most of them sold pine honey as a mixture with blossom honey or as ‘‘honey’’ without any indication of its honeydew origins.

Pine honey became gradually accepted as honey of good quality. It has no incisive taste or aroma, a very low tendency to crystallize is very thick, stores well, and is produced from pine forests far away from any environmental pollution. It is less sensitive to heating because of its low rate of forming HMF. These characteristics are very desirable in monofloral honeys and also in blends.

82 thousand tons of honey is produced per year in Turkey and 20 thousand tons of this figure, that is one fourth, is produced as honeydew honey. The whole honeydew honey comes from forests and especially from Pinus brutia. Honey production in Pinus brutia forests is the main source of income for approximately  10 thousands beekeeper s’ families in Turkey.

The Aegean Region has a distinct importance as the most preferred area by migratory beekeepers because of its climatic conditions, rich nectar sources, and pine honey production areas. Approximately 92 percent of the world pine honey production is carried out in this region, and the remaining 8 % is supplied from Greece. Today; the Kusadasi Dilek Peninsula, Milas, Bodrum, Marmaris, Datca, Fethiye and primarily the Mugla province are the most important pine honey production areas in Turkey. The fact that about 50 % of the country’s beekeepers in pine honey production operated here shows the importance of this particular region, which corresponds to nearly 4 % of the total world colony population.

According the information provided by Ziya Şahin, the President of Muğla Beekeeper’s Association;

  • There are approximately 7 million beehives in Turkey. The family numbers dealing with beekeeping in professional manner is about 60.000.
  • The annual honey production is about 80 000 tons of which 25-30 000 tons is honeydew honey.
  • In 2005, the honey dew production was about 35-40 tons. 20 tons were exported mainly to European countries.
  • It seems there is a bit confusing about the names especially in Turkish. “Honey dew” is called as “bal çiği, bal sıralı or basralı” in Turkish.
  • Also the insect, Marchalina helenica, named as “basralı” in some cases.
  • In Muğla province, 63.300 hectar forest area has been designated as “pine honey production area” according to forest management plans. It seem there are 15-20.000 hectar area could be included.
  • As an avarega of several years, 20-25.000 tons pine honey have been produced in Muğla and  10-15.000 tons from other provinces like İzmir, Aydın, Balıkesir, Antalya.


Production of honeydew honey

  • Honeydew honey is produced by the insect Marchalina helenica living on the Pinus brutia and Pinus pinea.  Marchalina helenica sucks the sap of the Pinus brutia and excretes the sweet substance. This sweet substance is then collected and transformed by bees into the honeydew honey.
  • Honeydew honey production begins at the end of July and continues at the end of April in the coasts and until May at high altitudes. Honeydew honey production is extensively made in August, September, October and November. Although honeydew honey production areas are regional, its production is national. All the beekeepers in the country benefit from those areas.
  • Since the entire honeydew honey is produced from forests, it is less effected by pesticide and pollution.


While it is possible to obtain products from most of the fruit trees for the period of 10-15 years, it is possible to obtain products from trees infected with Marchalina helenica for almost 50 years and more. —  A pine tree gives roughly 200-220 kg honey during the period of 50-60 years. With the price of 2015, 1 kg. pine honey is about 3 US $ at the field and 10 US $ at retail market. If we compare the wood and honey prices the benefits from pine honey is much and much higher then woody biomass.

Benefits of honeydew honey

  • There is a huge demand abroad for Turkish honeydew honey which is famous for its good quality, specific color, rich nutrients and strong scent of pine trees.
  • The most important characteristics of honeydew honey is that it can be stored for years without being crystallized. That’s why it is easy to market.
  • Honeydew honey is used in a variety of products (eg. ice-cream) in the medicine and food sector as a natural additive because of its resistance to crystallization and preventive characteristics,
  • Honeydew honey is known to be good for respiratory tracks and digestive system.
  • It is also effective to lose weight when consumed a glass mixed with warm water on an empty stomach every morning.

Precautions to be taken for honeydew honey

During the production, some precautions should be taken to protect the species important for the beekeeping:

  • Thinning in the forests infested with Marchalina hellenica  should be done at the end of honey production periods, in April.
  • It is necessary to cooperate in order to protect and develop the gene resources of the insect Marchalina hellenica, which contributes to produce honeydew honey,
  • The existing flora should be conserved and priority be given to the species which are important for beekeeping while afforestation, erosion control, rehabilitation and forestry activities are being carried out,
  • Despite the abovementioned importance of honeydew honey production, environmental impact assessment reports are not required by the relevant regulations issued in the framework of  mining law.  Sacrificing honey production areas for the sake of mines affects forest-people relation negatively, and beekeepers in the region concern that honeydew honey production will be a dream in the near future.
  • Pinus brutia forests infested with Marchalina hellenica also provide the potential for ecological honey production. They are rich in terms of infrastructure necessary for ecological honey. production.


Marchalina hellenica

Marchalina hellenica is a scale insect that lives in the eastern Mediterranean region, mainly in Greece and Turkey. It is the sole member of the genus Marchalina. It lives by sucking the sap of pine trees, mainly the Turkish Pine (Pinus brutia) and, to smaller extent, Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis), Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Stone Pine (Pinus pinea). It can be found in the cracks and under the scales of the bark of these trees, hidden under the white cotton-like wax it secretes. Its main form of reproduction is parthenogenesis(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marchalina_hellenica) 

This insect  exists mostly in  the centre of Muğla Kıran,Sarnıç,-Marmaris Osmaniye-Turgut-Bayır,-Datça Sındı-Mesudiye,-Ula-Akyaka-Milas Mazı-Fesleğen,- Bodrum-Gölköy and  Aydın-Güzelçamlı. It is found in the areas from Fethiye coastline to  the coastline of Kuşadası; while it is intense in some regions, it is found very few in some regions.

Distribution of Areas infested with Marchalina hellenica in Aegean RegionMarchelina Hellenica exists in the areas marked in yellow in the map.

6 7 12.09.2011 094 12.09.2011 110 basra arı 002 basra arı 007 basra arı 008böcek3

Discussion on  Marchalina hellenica

Recently there has been very serious debate about this insect, whether is harmful or not. It is true that In 2006 Marchalina hellenica was included in the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection alert list.  But in 2008 it was exluded. Please see the deatils. In Turkey, the insect still considered to be a harmfull for trees but expected to delete from the list.  Scientest and reserachers like Prof. Dr. Mustafa Avcı is opinioun of not harmfull. Personally I am the feeling like this. This insect should be supported and disseminated to other region based on scientific approaches and results.

Below, it could be possible to reach and read the approach provided by  the European and Mediterranean  Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) http://www.eppo.int/ 

EPPO is an intergovernmental organization responsible for European cooperation in plant health. Founded in 1951 by 15 European countries, EPPO now has 50 members, covering almost all countries of the European and Mediterranean region. Its objectives are to protect plants, to develop international strategies against the introduction and spread of dangerous pests and to promote safe and effective control methods. As a Regional Plant Protection Organization, EPPO also participates in global discussions on plant health organized by FAO and the IPPC Secretariat. Finally, EPPO has produced a large number of standards and publications on plant pests, phytosanitary regulations, and plant protection products


Added in 2006 – Deleted in 2008 Reasons for deletion:The pest Marchalina hellenica is a Mediterranean species voluntarily introduced in some areas to enhance honey production. It has posed problems in this context. In 2008, it was therefore considered that sufficient alert has been given and the pest was deleted from the Alert List.

 Marchalina hellenica (Homoptera: Margarodidae)

Why                      Between 1996 and 2000, Greek beekeepers were encouraged to artificially introduce a scale Marchalina hellenica in pine forests to increase their production of honey (it is estimated that 60% of honey produced in Greece is made from pine). The honeydew produced by the scale is used as a significant source of food by honey bees. At the same time, severe decline and significant tree mortality were observed in infested pine forests. A strong debate is currently taking place in Greece about the exact role of M. hellenica. Very different opinions are expressed, as for some the insect only causes cosmetic damage and for others it is the primary cause of pine mortality. It is also argued that M. hellenica could be a factor among many others involved in the decline of pine forests (e.g. ozone and soil pollution, drought, urban development and reduction of growth space for trees). But despite the lack of scientific information on the exact impact of M. hellenica on pine forests, the EPPO Secretariat added M. hellenica to the Alert List to draw countries’ attention to the possible risks of moving this pest to new areas where it may escape control.

Where                   EPPO region: Italy (only in the island of Ischia, Campania), Greece (spreading on the mainland and several islands including Crete, Rhodos), Turkey (at least in the Aegean region, data is lacking for other regions). In Italy it was officially reported on the island of Ischia (Campania) in 1984 but it is suspected that it was introduced in the 1960s. M. hellenica is thought to originate from the eastern Mediterranean region.

On which plants      Pinus species: especially P. brutia, P. halepensis and to a smaller extent, P. sylvestris, P. nigra, P. pinea. After artificial infestations studied at Mount Helmos in Greece, M. hellenica was also able to develop and establish on Abies cephalonica.

Damage                 M. hellenica is a sap-feeding insect. It produces large amounts of honeydew on which sooty moulds develop. It prefers the lower part of the tree and mainly nests on the main trunk, but infestations can be also observed on branches and even exposed roots. Large populations cause branch dieback, gradual desiccation eventually followed by tree death. So far, pine mortality is mainly observed in Southern Greece and Crete. In Italy, on the island of Ischia, M. hellenica was found damaging Pinus trees on the coast and in urban environments (streets and parks). In Turkey, a study was done to assess the impact of M. hellenica on P. brutia growing in the forests near Muğla (Aegean region). It showed that infestations could present a significant negative impact on trees (e.g. with up to 3.4% loss of volume increment in tree stands). But no tree mortality was mentioned in this study.

M. hellenica can be found in bark crevices, covered by white waxy secretions. The insect has 1 generation per year (although in some cases 2 generations have been observed). It is considered that M. hellenica mainly reproduces through parthenogenesis, as males are rarely found. Females are apterous and lay approximately 200-300 yellow, oval-shaped eggs covered by waxy secretions (in April, in Greece). 1st instar larvae (antennae with 6 segments) hatch approximately 20 days after egg-laying. They are light yellow, ellipsoid in shape and they start feeding and secreting a waxy cotton-like substance (from May to October). 2nd instar larvae (antennae with 9 segments) with an ellipsoidal shape are found from October to March. Each larval instar lasts approximately 6 months and the insect overwinters as 2nd instar larvae. Bright yellow adult females (antennae with 11 segments) covered by waxy secretions are then observed (body is approximately 7-11 mm long and 3-5 mm large). Male have rarely been found in Greece. The immature male stages have spindle-shaped, yellowish bodies (5.3 mm long, 3.6 mm large) and adults are winged (wingspan of approximately 11 mm).

Dissemination         M. hellenica has a low mobility, females are apterous and winged males are rarely observed. Results of genetic studies done on different Greek populations of the insect were also consistent with a very low mobility of this species. Artificial and intentional infestations done by man have obviously been very efficient in disseminating M. hellenica into new areas in Greece, where its populations reached high levels.

Pathway                Pinus plants for planting, cut branches.

Possible risks          Although scientific data is lacking about the impact of M. hellenica on Pinus forests, there is indication that large populations of the pest are damaging trees. In urban environments, insects producing large amounts of honeydew are always considered as a nuisance. Pines are widely present in the EPPO region, in forests but also in parks and gardens. Treatments against M. hellenica are being studied but most of them are difficult to apply in natural environment. The possible action of natural enemies, such as Neoleucopis kartliana (Diptera: Chamaemyiidae) or Chartocerus sp. (Hymenoptera: Signiphoridae) is being studied. In Italy, phytosanitary measures have been put in place to contain the pest within the island of Ischia (e.g. movements of host plants from the island of Ischia are prohibited, new outbreaks must be reported, pruning material should be destroyed). Although the risk presented by M. hellenica to Pinus trees is still being debated, it is advisable to avoid the introduction of M. hellenica into new areas.

Source(s)                      Personal communication with Mr Melas, Philodassiki, Athens, 2006-02.

Personal communication with Dr P. Milonas, Benaki Phytopathological Institute, Kifisia, Greece, 2006-06.

Anonymous (2005) Linee guida per interventi urgenti nelle pinete dell’isola d’Ischia, finalizzati al contenimento delle infestazioni in atto di coleotteri corticicoli (Tomicus destruens ed Orthotomicus erosus) e di omotteri fitomizi (Marchalina hellenica). Servizio Fitosanitario Regionale Campania. http://www.sito.regione.campania.it/AGRICOLTURA/difesa/linee-guida-pinete.htm

Bacandritsos N, Saitanis C, Papanastasiou I (2004) Morphology and life cycle of Marchalina hellenica (Gennadius) (Hemiptera: Margarodidae) on pine (Parnis Mt.) and fir (Helmos Mt.) forests of Greece. Annales de la Société entomologique de France (nouvelle série), 40(2), 169-176.

Bacandritsos N (2004) Establishment and honeydew honey production of Marchalina hellenica (Coccoidea Margarodidae) on fir tree (Abies cephalonica). Bulletin of Insectology 57(2), 127-130.

Erlinghagen F (2001) Portrait of an insect: Marchalina hellenica Genn. (Sternorrhyncha: Coccina: Margarodidae), important producer of honeydew in Greece. Apiacta 36, 131-137.

Kosta H, Chondros A (2006) What ails the pines of Greece? The American College of Greece Magazine, no. 1, 34-35. http://www.acg.edu/acg/Acgmagazine1.pdf

Margaritopoulos, JT, Bacandritsos N, Pekas AN, Stamatis C, Mamuris Z, Tsitsipis JA (2003) Genetic variation of Marchalina hellenica (Hemiptera: Margarodidae) sampled from different hosts and localities in Greece. Bulletin of Entomological Research 93, 447-453.

Petrakis P, Roussis V, Vayias C (2006) Scientists are testing what could prove the definitive way to save pine trees from a slow and certain death. Ekathimerini. (on-line version of a Greek newspaper – 2006-16-03) http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/news/content.asp?aid=67533

Yeşil A, Gürkan B, Saraçoğlu Ö, Zengin H (2005) Effect of the pest Marchalina hellenica Gennadius (Homopera, Margarodidae) on the growth parameters of Pinus brutia Ten. in Muğla region (Turkey). Polish Journal of Ecology 53(3), 451-458.

EPPO RS 2006/130

Panel review date       2007-03                                                                                                                       Entry date 2006-06



Pine honey is a unique non-wood forest product of Turkey’s Forest.   Marchalina hellenica is also very special and important incest like silkworm. (Bombyx mandarina

Ismail Belen

Forest Engineer



With a special thanks to;

Letters for Future