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Mad honey, the crazy result of bees’ adaptation to flower shortage in Nepal

This honey can cause hallucinations to whomever consumes it and is a result of a very particular flower that bees feed from.

High in the mountains of Nepal and Turkey live the largest honey bees on the planet. The Apis dorsata of this region produces a type of honey that is unlike any other in the world. It has a characteristic that makes it a mystery, it is the mad honey, a strange mixture of exotic nature.

The rare variety of fluid is striking in its appearance, which is far from the amber color of other types of honey, but more than an exotic substance. Its rarity actually lies in the fact that it is capable of producing a number of physiological effects.

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Those who consume it go through a series of symptoms that can lead to intoxication. At lower doses, mad honey causes dizziness, lightheadedness, and euphoria; but in higher doses, hallucinations, vomiting, loss of consciousness, convulsions, and, in rare cases, death may be experienced.

What is mad honey?

Curiously, not all Apis dorsata laboriosa bees produce this type of honey, and that can only have one explanation. The substance that transforms the honey does not come from the bees themselves, but from their food. A species of flowers called rhododendrons, which also lives high in the mountain ranges of Nepal and Turkey, contains a group of neurotoxic compounds called grayanotoxins.

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Because there is a shortage of other types of nectar, the bees living in these high-altitude areas feed almost exclusively on rhododendrons, resulting in a higher concentration of grayanotoxins in the honey they produce. Thus arises the transformation of what could be usual honey into especially pure mad honey.

A strange and potentially toxic mixture

So far, it is known that mad honey produces a kind of poisoning in the body that causes a dangerous drop in blood pressure and heart rate. The grayanotoxins exert their toxicity and in turn cause sweating, salivation and nausea. Generally, the symptoms disappear 24 hours after the consumption of the mad honey, although this will depend on the amount ingested and, of course, on the characteristics of the person who ingests it.

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It is extraordinary to think that in nature everything is intricately connected. That is, beings evolve to adapt to their environment, and just as the rhododendron flowers adapted to the high latitudes in the mountains, the largest honey bee evolved to feed on them in an environment scarce of flowers, transforming in the process, its honey into strange mad honey.

Story originally published in Ecoosfera

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