Generally, honey is classified by the floral source of the nectar from which it was made. Honeys can be from specific types of flower nectars or can be blended after collection.
The pollen in honey is traceable to floral source and therefore region of origin. The rheological and melissopalynological properties of honey can be used to identify the major plant nectar source used in its production.
Most commercially available honey is a blend of two or more honeys differing in floral source, color, flavor, density, or geographic origin.
Polyfloral honey, also known as wildflower honey, is derived from the nectar of many types of flowers.
The taste may vary from year to year, and the aroma and the flavor can be more or less intense, depending on which flowers are blooming.
Monofloral honey is made primarily from the nectar of one type of flower. Monofloral honeys have distinctive flavors and colors because of differences between their principal nectar sources.
To produce monofloral honey, beekeepers keep beehives in an area where the bees have access, as far as possible, to only one type of flower.
In practice a small proportion of any monofloral honey will be from other flower types. Typical examples of North American monofloral honeys are clover, orange blossom,sage, tupelo, buckwheat, fireweed, mesquite, sourwood, cherry, and blueberry.
Some typical European examples include thyme, thistle, heather, acacia, dandelion, sunflower, lavender, honeysuckle, and varieties from lime and chestnut trees.
In North Africa (e.g. Egypt), examples include clover, cotton, and citrus (mainly orange blossoms). The unique flora of Australia yields a number of distinctive honeys, with some of the most popular being yellow box, blue gum, ironbark, bush mallee, Tasmanian leatherwood, and macadamia.
Monofloral honey is a type of honey which has a distinctive flavor or other attribute due to its being predominantly from the nectar of one plant species.
It is stored and labeled separately so as to command a premium price. While there may never be an absolute monofloral type, some honeys are relatively pure due to the prodigious nectar production of a particular species, such as citrus (orange blossom honey), or there may be little else in bloom at the time.
Beekeepers learn the predominant nectar sources of their region, and often plan harvests to keep especially fine ones separate.
For example, in the southern Appalachians, sourwood honey, from a small tree that blooms late in the season, is highly regarded.
Beekeepers try to remove the previously produced dark and strong flavored tulip poplar honey, just before the sourwood bloom, so it does not mix with the lighter sourwood. During sourwood bloom, there is little else for the bees to forage.
Instead of taking nectar, bees can take honeydew, the sweet secretions of aphids or other plant sap-sucking insects.
Honeydew honey is very dark brown in color, with a rich fragrance of stewed fruit or fig jam, and is not as sweet as nectar honeys.
Germany’s Black Forest is a well-known source of honeydew-based honeys, as well as some regions in Bulgaria, Tara in Serbia, and Northern California in the United States.
In Greece pine honey, a type of honeydew honey, constitutes 60–65% of honey production.
Honeydew honey is popular in some areas, but in other areas, beekeepers have difficulty selling the stronger-flavored product.
The production of honeydew honey has some complications and dangers. This honey has a much larger proportion of indigestibles than light floral honeys, thus causing dysentery to the bees, resulting in the death of colonies in areas with cold winters.
Good beekeeping management requires the removal of honeydew prior to winter in colder areas. Bees collecting this resource also have to be fed protein supplements, as honeydew lacks the protein-rich pollen accompaniment gathered from flowers.