Honey

A sweet, sticky treat

Honey is a sweet and viscous substance produced by some varieties of bees and wasps. Created by the bees from either nectar or honeydew, its sweetness is derived from a mixture of fructose and glucose.   For the people of Etrea, honey is commonly used for sustenance, either by itself or as a component of - or to enhance - certain dishes. It also is widely used across the world for different medicinal and ritual purposes.   In some cultures, bees have been semi-domesticated in order to provide a stable and reliable source of honey. Other cultures rely only on collection from wild hives.
Taste
Sweet, with a variety of flavour notes dependent on origin
 
Colour
A spectrum between light yellow-cream to dark amber-brown

Creation

 
Honey is created by a hive's worker bees for use as sustenance when the weather is cold or when other food sources are scarce. A proportion of worker bees work as foragers. They leave the hive and collect nectar (or honeydew) through their proboscis, storing the majority of it in their specialised honey stomach. The rest is used for energy during their forage expedition, as a bee can visit around a thousand flowers in a single trip.   After they return to the hive, the forager bees transfer the nectar to the hive worker bees. The hive bees use their honey stomachs to partially digest the nectar and regurgitate it, forming bubbles between their mandibles which helps to evaporate some of the water content. The bees' digestive enzymes help hydrolyse the sucrose in the nectar to fructose and glucose, as well as to break down other starches and proteins to increase the acidity. The hive bees work together until this new liquid is ready for storage, a process which takes around twenty minutes.  
The hive bees then place the liquid in hexagonal cells of honeycomb. They do not seal the cells straight away, as this could cause the honey to ferment. Instead, they use a combination of their body heat and the fluttering of their wings to regulate the temperature in the hive, continuing to evaporate excess water from the honey. When the honey reaches the correct composition, the bees cap the cells with wax, forming an airtight seal. Honey is stored this way until it is needed by the hive.  

Toxic Honey

Honey created from certain flowers can have less than desirable effects when ingested by humans, as it ends up laced with the plant's natural toxins. Notable examples include certain varieties of rhododendron, laurels, or azaleas. Some insects that have their honeydew harvested can also introduce their poison into the finished honey.   Honey intoxication does not strike everyone who eats honey originating from these plants; a greater volume of honey consumed makes it more likely, but not inevitable. Symptoms of honey intoxication include delirium, vomiting, weakness, convulsions, and - in some rare cases - death.   In Avar, toxic honey is deliberately cultivated for use as a male enhancement remedy, with occasionally fatal consequences.

Floral Honey

Honey differs in both taste and appearance depending on which flowers the nectar used in its creation originates from.   Most wild honey tends to be polyfloral - that is, the nectar has been collected from many varieties of flower, depending on what is blooming close to the hive. The flavour varies from year to year.   Monofloral honey is primarly created from one kind of flower, often due to intervention by people. These honeys have a distinct flavour, and differ wildly from country to country. It is almost impossible to create a pure monofloral honey, as humanoid control over the bees is limited.  

Honeydew Honey

Honeydew honey is made from the secretions of certain varieties of insects, such as aphids. Dark brown in colour, it has a strong, almost fruity flavour, and is not as sweet as floral honey. Honeydew honey is particularly popular in some areas of Moragul.   Honeydew can actually be dangerous for the bees who harvest it, as they struggle to digest it. This can mean the death of colonies during the depths of winter.  
 

History

 
For thousands of years, honey has been collected by the humanoid races of Etrea.   In some cultures, such as the Emehr of the Jasperic Isles, the method of collection has not changed much throughout history. For the Emehr, adolescent boys have the job of finding wild hives and harvesting honeycomb during the correct season. This is seen somewhat as a rite of passage. In Coranir, fields of flowers are planted to attract bees and tempt them into making their hives nearby. The honey is then collected in a sustainable fashion, leaving enough for the bees to be able to survive the harsh winter.   Elsewhere, people known as beekeepers fashion hives for the bees to live in. In some places, these hives are merely a box, and in others hives have removable wooden frames for the bees to create their honeycomb. Collection differs depending on the type of hive. With the former, beekeepers take all of the available honey, sacrificing the colony to starve during the winter months. They will then replace the colony in the spring.   With the latter, the frames can be lifted out and the honey collected easily. Smoke is used to pacify the bees before collection; the smoke obscures the pheromones the bees use to communicate. In this case, the beekeepers leave at least one frame of honey and supplement the bees' food storage with sugared water, ensuring that the colony survives the winter.
 

Honey as Food

Honey is used in the cuisine of many cultures across Etrea. It gives a lot of energy compared to its volume, so it is considered a staple in poorer areas with access to wild hives. Honey can be eaten straight from the comb, spread on bread, or used in baking. It can also be used as a sweetener in certain beverages or with yoghurt, or used to flavour different foods.   Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in Etrea, created by fermenting honey with water. To this base mead, one can add various fruits, grains, or spices in order to change the flavour of the final product. In some cultures, there is also a tradition of honey wine, which is made by fermenting fruits sweetened with honey.  

Honey in Medicine

Honey has been used for medicinal purposes throughout history and across cultures. It is often used in wound care, as it is believed to prevent infections and to expedite healing. This is true in the case of both lacerations and burns. Scholars in several countries have, in recent years, started to research this further.   It is also popular to use a mixture of honey and warm water to soothe a cough or a sore throat. In some countries, a spoonful of honey is recommended to counteract seasonal allergies, although its effectiveness is debated.

Health Hazards

In some cultures, it is considered unsafe to give honey to infants under the age of one. Infant consumption has been known to lead to honey sickness, symptoms of which include respiratory issues, a changed cry, paralysis, and even death. The cause is currently unknown, though some scholars theorise that some kinds of honey may contain invisible toxins.
 

Cultural Significance

As well as being used as food and medicine, honey has a much deeper importance in some cultures.   In the matriarchal country of Helvia, honey is used in the coronation of the queen. It is believed that honey is a substance with a direct link to the gods, and its role in the coronation is to symbolise the divine acknowledgement of the new queen.   Honey is also used in the funeral rites in Abror. The deceased is covered in honey before they are sealed in their tomb, as it is believed that honey will aid in the preservation of their body.   In Senairi, only a few generations ago, the king was murdered by being drowned in a bowl of honey. Since then, it has been forbidden by law to possess or consume honey within the palace walls.


Cover image: by hansbenn

Comments

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22 Jan, 2021 00:15

Another magnificent article!   The cultural significance section is my favorite. I also got a chuckle out of your take on toxic masculinity (enhancement).   Very good work and definitely worth the read. Thank you!

Author of Fillimet, bright fantasy land of possibilities, and Vazdimet, its darker spacefaring future.
Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
22 Jan, 2021 00:25

Thank you! I had a lot of fun with all the research for this, and thinking about how it relates specifically to Etrea. <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
22 Jan, 2021 00:19

Lovely! I would love to see foods/beverages added and cross-linked in the future :D Honeyfoods!! The final section really drives home the way honey is seen by societies on your world, and not just how it's made or consumed.  

In Avar, toxic honey is deliberately cultivated for use as a male enhancement remedy, with occasionally fatal consequences.
I've heard of honey in use for "vitality" but find it interesting that specifically a TOXIC kind of honey is created for this. If they are cultivating it, what kind of flower is grown near the hives to ensure or control potency?

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
22 Jan, 2021 00:27

The male enhancement is actually based on a real life use for toxic honey! I definitely plan to work out the exact plant and come back to expand that section a little in the future. :)   Yes! There will be lots of cross-linking in the future! Honeyfoods!!! <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
31 Jan, 2021 17:46

People will ingest poison for so many weird reasons XD YAY HONEYFOODS! <3

22 Jan, 2021 14:17

Another great article! I love it! And the cultural significance was definitely a great bit. Thoroughly enjoyed this. Nicely done. :)

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
22 Jan, 2021 15:14

Thanks, AP! <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
22 Jan, 2021 16:26

An absolutely lovely and also quite informative article Emy :D   Me being me, the information that stood out to me the most was the "toxic honey", as I wasn't aware that such a thing even existed ^_^.

Author of Cenorad ; a bleak-dark sandbox of creativity.
Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
22 Jan, 2021 20:31

Thank you very much, Sloqush! :D There's lots of room for expansion on the topic of toxic honey, I think. Wikipedia had a couple of articles and there are also some interesting scientific studies.

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
Grandmaster AzounIV
Luca Poddighe
22 Jan, 2021 17:18

I love honey and I couldn't escape from loving this article as well! <3 I find the layout very neat and easy to read that is obviously a bonus for the reader. As usual, it's clear you have done a lot of research and the content is very well written! I liked the touch of the king drowned in honey... must have been a sweet death! :D

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Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
22 Jan, 2021 20:32

Thanks, Luca! <3 I love putting the little bits of culture in there to give me stuff to expand on later. ^_^

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
22 Jan, 2021 17:42

I love how detailed all of this is, and particularly enjoyed the toxic honey section. Really well done, and the design is gorgeous!

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
22 Jan, 2021 20:32

Thank you so much! <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
23 Jan, 2021 07:45

Woah. There's so much interesting information about how honey is made. Do you have a degree in honey making or something? Anyway, all of it was super interesting to read. I loved the detail with which you explain honey--to the point it felt like something that you might read in a biology class. Mixed with the cultural and historical context in which honey has permeated your world, and, as something that might have originally easily been overlooked, is a really interesting cultural development. Great work, as always.

Give me a visit at my current project(s): Aesontis
Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
23 Jan, 2021 12:25

Thank you very much. I enjoy doing research for articles like these a little too much, hahaha. :)

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
Sage Rynn19
Wendy Vlemings (Rynn19)
23 Jan, 2021 08:33

Wonderful article! I especially like that you also include it's cultural significance. And I had no idea honey could be toxic!

Author of Ealdwyll, a fantasy world full of mystery.
Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
23 Jan, 2021 12:25

Thank you so much! :D <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
Master Brinsmead
Caitlin Phillips
23 Jan, 2021 14:15

I love the idea of the honey being used in funeral rites. This is such a good article. Excellently researched and so well written.

Cait x
Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
23 Jan, 2021 16:13

Thank you so much! <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
23 Jan, 2021 14:52

I feel like I learned some new things about honey in real life from this article, I didn't know about the virility enhancing toxic honey, for one. The bit about the funeral rites makes sense, did you get inspiration from something for that or it came all out of your brain?

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
23 Jan, 2021 16:13

I was thinking about ancient Egyptian funeral rites when I wrote it. Then I did some research and it appears that a 'mellified man' is a thing. Google that at your peril.   Thank you! <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
23 Jan, 2021 16:27

Thanks!

Sage eccbooks
E. Christopher Clark
24 Jan, 2021 00:00

As a kid, I was terrified of bees. I didn't want to get stung, and I let my world center around me, so I just thought of them as evil things intent on doing nothing but harm.   I wish I'd been given articles like this to read. This gave me a wonderful sense of how marvelous bees are, while also giving me great insight into their place in your world. Nicely done!

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
24 Jan, 2021 00:02

Aw, thank you so much. I love bees, so I'm really glad that's what you got out of this article. :)

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
25 Jan, 2021 12:52

I really liked how this article was so detailed in the History about how different places have gathered and used honey. And, who knew honey could be so dangerous? Drowning in honey, male enhancement gone wrong, honey sickness... I guess death by honey isn't such a bad way to go.

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
25 Jan, 2021 21:00

Thank you! :D Also, I think you're right - honey is definitely not the worst way to go.

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
30 Jan, 2021 21:27

I was shocked at first seeing such names as: fructose or glucose. These do not come very often. :D   Very glad that the info on honey intoxication in infants and toxic honey was used. Yay for the rare stuff!   A nice touch with additional information on its use in coronation of the queen (neat parallel) and for funeral rites in Abror. Is that used in similar fashion to Egyptian mummies with cloth to take in the honey, or are they just preserving the body with pure honey and seal the tomb?   This is the second article (first was about the Dapper sheep) I read recently relating to nature in Etrea. I like both and wish you all best and fun if you feel like writing more of the similar. :)

Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
30 Jan, 2021 23:09

More similar to Egyptian mummies, I believe, but I'm going to have to do some research before I write an article about that for sure. :D   Thank you! I'm having fun with the nature research-y articles at the moment. <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
Journeyman David_Ulph
David Alexander
31 Jan, 2021 14:07

This article is a fantastic example of why I absolutely love your work Emy! The way you take something completely mundane and explain its significance or minor details in the setting is an *aspiration* because of how it turns a random setting of worldbuilding and stories into a believable and living world.   Thank you for this piece, thoroughly enjoyed every wee detail!

Latha math leat! Sending praise from the Hebrides! Check out my peculiar plant - Lungroot
Sage Serukis
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
31 Jan, 2021 19:48

Aww, thank you so much, David! :D I appreciate your comments a lot. <3

Emy x   Welcome to Etrea! Please check out my peculiar plants entry! :)
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