How Does Honey Get Its Color?
How does honey gets its color and why there is such a variety?
In the grocery store, we find row upon row of bottles of golden colored honey. However, honey actually
comes in a myriad of colors, ranging from the transparent or “white” variety to the dark “deep amber”.
There are also incidents of unusually colored honey, like red or blue-green.
Honey bees forage for both nectar and pollen. The nectar is the bee's source of energy while the pollen
is consumed because it is a source of protein and other nutrients.
Honey bees gather pollen and in pollen baskets on their hind legs that are actually small
concave areas surrounded by hair-like bristles called setae. As the bee forages, pollen
grains collect on its head. The bee then uses its front legs to transfer the pollen to the pollen baskets.
Bees mix dry pollen with nectar to compact the pollen in the pollen basket.
Bees collect pollen as a protein source to raise their brood.
Honeydew honey, made from honeydew, is known to be one of the most unique, most intriguingly
exotic honeys in the world. Read more: Honeydew Honey
Honey gets its color from the pollen that a hive gathers to make it. Because plants blossom at different
times of year and bees collect honey nearly year-round, a single hive can produce radically different
colors of honey from season to season.
You may have noticed that the color of the pollen basket varies, depending on the specie of plant from
which the bees are collecting the pollen, the pollen basket can appear white or even dark blue. If you’re
curious about the plant species from which your bees are collecting nectar and pollen, it's possible to
identify them by checking the color of the pollen basket and knowing what species might be in bloom at
Another impact on honey's color also has minerals, such as sulfur, potassium, calcium, magnesium,
sodium, copper, iron and manganese, found in the flower source.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies honey into 7 color categories:
- Water White
- Extra White
- Extra Light Amber
- Light Amber
- Dark Amber
Please note that white color here doesn’t mean that honey is actually white, it means that honey is
The color of honey is typically measured using a continuous scale known as the Pfund
scale of measurement. This scale consists of a glass wedge that varies in its color from lightest to
darkest amber. The honey to be evaluated is poured into another wedge shaped container and then
the color is compared with the amber scale. The place where the color of the honey matches closest
to the scale is then marked as the result. The final measurement is thus given in a number ranging
from 0 to 140 mm (according to the scale length where the match occurs)
The Association of Analytical Chemists implements another lesser used method called the
Lovibond Visual Comparator. In this process, a light beam is shone through the honey
and the color is compared to a scale for the final result.
The color of the honey most definitely has an impact on the quality, especially in terms of
the taste. Usually, the lighter colored honeys have a milder taste while the darker honeys have a strong,
full-bodied and rich flavor. However, there are exceptions to this rule like the light colored honey from
basswoods or linden which have a strong flavor and the dark colored yet mild tasting tulip honey.
The color of the honey is also indicative of the antioxidant content of the product. Usually the darker
the color, the higher the antioxidant content of the honey. Dark colored buckwheat honey has
approximately 20 times more useful antioxidants than the light sage honey. Thus if you are looking to
consume honey for health reasons, then this is an important point to consider while selecting the
Here is a look at a few of the most common honey floral varieties.
Taken from the tiny white flowers of the blueberry bush, the nectar makes a honey which is typically
light amber in color and with a full, well-rounded flavor.
Buckwheat honey is dark and full-bodied.
Clover honey has a pleasing, mild taste. Clovers contribute more to honey production in the United
States than any other group of plants.
Goldenrod-based honey is a rich amber color and has a slightly spicy flavor.
Wildflower honey is often used to describe honey from miscellaneous and undefined flower sources.
Plants had to solve a problem: they needed to find ways to spread their genetic material.
Flying pollinators were nature's solution. Nectar is made as a reward for pollinators.
Take this quick quiz and see how much you know about bees—our favorite essential pollinators
working around the world. This quiz is intended for fun, in a random-facts-can-be-cool kind of way.
Have you ever wondered how bees fly and why is there all that buzzing? Buzzing is the sound of
a bee’s beating wings. Scientists first realized that bees seem to flout the laws of mathematics
in the 1930s.