Colony Collapse Disorder Update, Honey update, and Honey Cake Recipe

Jacob Schor, ND

September 8, 2007



One of the things Rena brought to our marriage was a note card sized, hand copied, spiral bound notebook of family recipes. Today, when any recipe you can name can be Googled in a fraction of a second, there's something satisfying about thumbing through the worn pages of this book searching out a particular recipe. I am most particularly fond of Carmi's Hamentaschen dough, especially in combination with the poppyseed filling.


I have the book out now going through the recipes that are in random order looking for Aunt Minnie's Honey Cake Recipe. Aunt Minnie, who is actually a great, great, great Aunt at 100 and something this year, denies ever making a honey cake whose recipe was worth saving. Nevertheless, whatever recipe we use, we still attribute it to Minnie.


Why honey cake? Because it is the Jewish New Year. Like an earlier Iron Chef contest, honey is the food of the day for Rosh Hashanah. Honey, the ultimate in sweetness: its taste should sweeten your coming year. We dip apple slices in honey and we bake honey cakes.


I use the holiday as an excuse to review what's new in the medical and scientific world that relates to honey.


The big story of course is Colony Collapse Disorder. We sent out a newsletter on this disturbing phenomenon last winter. To review briefly, about a year ago, commercial beekeepers started reporting large numbers of bee hives lost to a new and unknown cause. Bees disappeared, abandoning hives and young. Various theories were proposed from alien abductions to cell phone radiation. I favored the later.


Elizabeth Kolbert, in the August 8 issue of the New Yorker, has written an excellent article on this whole business. Although the bees appear to abandon the hive, when researchers have captured bees just prior to the hive collapse and autopsied them, they found a shocking mixture of disease.


Kolbert writes;

“They seemed to be suffering not so much from any particular ailment as from just about every ailment….The bees were infected with just about every bee virus known, including deformed wing virus, sac-brood virus, and black-queen-cell virus, and also by various fungi and bacteria. In addition, genetic analysis revealed the presence of new pathogens, never before sequenced. Such was the level of infection that…….researchers concluded that the bees' immune systems had collapsed. It was as if an insect version of AIDS were sweeping through the hives.” [i]


Read Kolbert's article:


Since Kolbert's article went to press, Ian Lipkin head of an infectious disease laboratory at Columbia University authored a paper published in Science, September 6, identifying the causative virus as Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV). [ii] This virus is spread from bee to bee by Varroa jacobsoni mites. These mites are relatively recent immigrants to North America .



The day after Lipkin's paper was published, on September 7, Science published another paper suggesting the virus comes from Australia . [iii] Clearly this isn't sorted out yet. At least we don't have to blame cell phones.


More about Ian Lipkin's research and the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus discovery:


More about Varroa mites


I have a particular attachment to Varroa mites. In 1981, as a course assignment for “Scientific writing for the mass media” at Cornell University, I wrote and produced a 60 second radio spot on Varroa Jacobsoni, which even though it had not yet reached the United States, was already considered a threat to bees.


Link to our earlier newsletter on Colony Collapse Disorder:




Let's switch from worrying about impending global apiary doom, to something a bit more positive.

What is new in regard to honey and medicine over the last year? A simple PubMed search at the National Library of Medicine yields 265 new papers in the last year. Many of course have to do with this Colony Collapse business.


Most of the papers of interest from our perspective are about wound healing.


A study published in April, compared honey versus the drugs used to treat pressure ulcers, what we call bedsores. “By week 5, …… scores showed that healing among subjects using a honey dressing was approximately 4 times the rate of healing in the comparison group. The use of a honey dressing is effective and practical.” [iv]



A paper published in July, reports a randomized trial comparing honey versus sugar dressings in patients with some nasty sounding infected wounds in Malawi . Of the forty patients enrolled in the trial, 22 had their wounds dressed with honey, 18 with a sugar solution. “Honey appears to be more effective than sugar in reducing bacterial contamination and promoting wound healing,” [v]



Researchers from New Zealand report in a paper published in August that they think they have identified a chemical in honey responsible for stimulating wound healing. If this proves to be true, it will allow increased concentration and standardization of honeys to potentiate wound healing. [vi] This rates as pretty cool in my book.



Honey is obviously sticky and a paper published this month, September, suggests using honey as an adhesive for attaching skin grafts. [vii]


One paper reported on the effectiveness of various strains of honey at killing E. coli bacteria, even when watered down three to one. [viii] Another paper reported details on honey's effectiveness at killing Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. [ix]


For those of our readers who live near the Black Sea in Turkey , you do need to beware of ‘black honey.' Honey made from a flowering rhododendron in that area of the world contains a nasty toxin called grayanotoxin. Turkish doctors reported seeing a case of asystole caused by this poisoned honey this year. [x] The first recorded account of black honey poisoning in Turkey was in 401, BC. It is still one of the most common causes of food poisoning in Turkey today. [xi]


Enough reading this stuff.

Below you will find the honey cake recipe Rena uses.


From all of us at the Denver Naturopathic Clinic, we wish you a sweet and joyous New Year.


Shana Tovah.


Drs. Rena Bloom and Jacob Schor

along with Pat, Sylvia, Sophie and Poppy


2006 Honey update:

2005 Honey update:




Honey Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.


1 cup sugar

(yeah, we know, you thought it was supposed to be honey cake. I am just copying the recipe. I would suggest using one and a half cups of honey and decrease the coffee to one half a cup and make it even stronger)

1 cup oil

1 cup honey

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

1 cup cold and very strong black coffee

½ cup orange juice


6 eggs one at a time


4 cups flour sifted with

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

spritzes of allspice and nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt


1 cup ground walnuts

1 cup raisins

1 apple grated


Bake in a bundt or tube pan until done….




[i] Elizabeth Kolbetr, Stung: Where have all the bees gone? The New Yorker. August 6, 2007 pages 52- 59


[ii] Science. 2007 Sep 6; [Epub ahead of print]

A Metagenomic Survey of Microbes in Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder.

Cox-Foster DL , Conlan S , Holmes EC , Palacios G , Evans JD , Moran NA , Quan PL , Briese T , Hornig M , Geiser DM , Martinson V , Vanengelsdorp D , Kalkstein AL , Drysdale A , Hui J , Zhai J , Cui L , Hutchison SK , Simons JF , Egholm M , Pettis JS , Lipkin WI .

Department of Entomology, The Pennsylvania State University, 501 ASI building, University Park , PA 16802 , USA .

In colony collapse disorder (CCD), honey bee colonies inexplicably lose their workers. CCD has resulted in a loss of 50 to 90% of colonies in beekeeping operations across the United States . The observation that irradiated combs from affected colonies can be repopulated with naive bees suggests that infection may contribute to CCD. We used an unbiased metagenomic approach to survey microflora in CCD hives, normal hives, and imported royal jelly. Candidate pathogens were screened for significance of association with CCD by examination of samples collected from several sites over a period of 3 years. One organism, Israeli acute paralysis virus of bees (IAPV), was strongly correlated with CCD.

PMID: 17823314 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]


[iii] Science. 2007 Sep 7;317(5843):1304-5.

GENOMICS: Puzzling Decline of U.S. Bees Linked to Virus From Australia .

Stokstad E.


Researchers report online in Science this week ( that they have found an imported virus that may be associated with the sudden disappearance of honey bees in the United States , known as colony collapse disorder.

[iv] J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2007 Mar-Apr;34(2):184-90.

Effectiveness of a honey dressing for healing pressure ulcers.

Yapucu Günes U, Eser I.


Ege University School of Nursing, Izmir/Turkey.


OBJECTIVE: To compare the effect of a honey dressing vs an ethoxy-diaminoacridine plus nitrofurazone dressing in patients with pressure ulcers. DESIGN: This 5-week randomized clinical trial evaluated the effect of a honey dressing on pressure ulcer healing. SETTING AND SUBJECTS: Thirty-six patients with a total of 68 stage II or III pressure ulcers referred from a university hospital in Izmir were enrolled in the study. Twenty-six subjects completed the trial. INSTRUMENTS: Ulcers were measured with acetate tracings and Pressure Ulcer Scale for Healing (PUSH) evaluations. METHODS: Fifteen patients with 25 pressure ulcers were treated with honey dressings, and 11 patients with 25 pressure ulcers were treated with ethoxy-diaminoacridine plus nitrofurazone dressings. Wound healing was assessed weekly using the PUSH tool, version 3.0. The primary outcome measure was the change in PUSH tool scores in each group at 5 weeks. RESULTS: The two groups were statistically similar with regard to baseline and wound characteristics. After 5 weeks of treatment, patients who were treated by honey dressing had significantly better PUSH tool scores than subjects treated with the ethoxy-diaminoacridine plus nitrofurazone dressing (6.55 +/- 2.14 vs 12.62 +/- 2.15, P < .001). CONCLUSION: By week 5, PUSH tool scores showed that healing among subjects using a honey dressing was approximately 4 times the rate of healing in the comparison group. The use of a honey dressing is effective and practical.


PMID: 17413836 [PubMed - in process]


[v] J Wound Care. 2007 Jul;16(7):317-9.Links

Effects of honey and sugar dressings on wound healing.

Mphande AN, Killowe C, Phalira S, Jones HW, Harrison WJ.


Beit Cure International Hospital , Blantyre , Malawi .


OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether there is a difference between the efficacy of honey and sugar as wound dressings. METHOD: Patients with open or infected wounds were randomised to receive either honey or sugar dressings. Bacterial colonisation, wound size, wound ASEPSIS score and pain were assessed at the start of treatment and at weekly intervals until full healing occurred. RESULTS: Forty patients were enrolled; 18 received sugar dressings and 22 honey dressings. In the honey group, 55% of patients had positive wound cultures at the start of treatment and 23% at one week, compared with 52% and 39% respectively in the sugar group.The median rate of healing in the first two weeks of treatment was 3.8cm2/week for the honey group and 2.2cm2/week for the sugar group.After three weeks of treatment 86% of patients treated with honey had no pain during dressing changes, compared with 72% treated with sugar. CONCLUSION: Honey appears to be more effective than sugar in reducing bacterial contamination and promoting wound healing, and slightly less painful than sugar during dressing changes and motion.


[vi] J Leukoc Biol. 2007 Aug 3; [Epub ahead of print]

A 5.8-kDa component of manuka honey stimulates immune cells via TLR4.

Tonks AJ, Dudley E, Porter NG, Parton J, Brazier J, Smith EL, Tonks A.


Departments of *Medical Microbiology and Haematology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom; Biochemistry Research Group, School of Biological Sciences, School of Environment and Society, University of Wales Swansea, United Kingdom; and Crop and Food Research Ltd., Christchurch, New Zealand.


Honey is used as a therapy to aid wound healing. Previous data indicate that honey can stimulate cytokine production from human monocytes. The present study further examines this phenomenon in manuka honey. As inflammatory cytokine production in innate immune cells is classically mediated by pattern recognition receptors in response to microorganisms, bacterial contamination of honey and the effect of blocking TLR2 and -4 on stimulatory activity were assessed. No vegetative bacteria were isolated from honey; however, bacterial spores were cultured from one-third of samples, and low levels of LPS were detected. Blocking TLR4 but not TLR2 inhibited honey-stimulated cytokine production significantly. Cytokine production did not correlate with LPS levels in honey and was not inhibited by polymyxin B. Further, the activity was reduced significantly following heat treatment, indicating that component(s) other than LPS are responsible for the stimulatory activity of manuka honey. To identify the component responsible for inducing cytokine production, honey was separated by molecular weight using microcon centrifugal filtration and fractions assessed for stimulatory activity. The active fraction was analyzed by MALDI-TOF mass spectroscopy, which demonstrated the presence of a number of components of varying molecular weights. Additional fractionation using miniaturized, reverse-phase solid-phase extraction resulted in the isolation of a 5.8-kDa component, which stimulated production of TNF-alpha via TLR4. These findings reveal mechanisms and components involved in honey stimulation of cytokine induction and could potentially lead to the development of novel therapeutics to improve wound healing for patients with acute and chronic wounds.


PMID: 17675558 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]


[vii] Burns. 2007 Sep;33(6):782-7. Epub 2007 Jun 29.

A different and safe method of split thickness skin graft fixation: Medical honey application.

Emsen IM.


Numune State Hospital , Department of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic, Surgery, Erzurum , Turkey .


Honey has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. Its antibacterial effects have been established during the past few decades. Still, modern medical practitioners hesitate to apply honey for local treatment of wounds. This may be because of the expected messiness of such local application. Hence, if honey is to be used for medicinal purposes, it has to meet certain criteria. The authors evaluated its use for the split thickness skin graft fixation because of its adhesive and other beneficial effects in 11 patients. No complications such as graft loss, infection, and graft rejection were seen. Based on these results, the authors advised honey as a new agent for split thickness skin graft fixation. In recent years there has been a renewed interest in honey wound management. There are a range of regulated wound care products that contain honey available on the Drug Tariff. This article addresses key issues associated with the use of honey, outlining how it may be best used, in which methods of split thickness skin graft fixations it may be used, and what clinical outcomes may be anticipated. For this reason, 11 patients who underwent different diagnosis were included in this study. In all the patients same medical honey was used for the fixation of the skin graft. No graft loss was seen during both the first dressing and the last view of the grafted areas. As a result, it has been shown that honey is also a very effective agent for split thickness skin graft fixations. Because it is a natural agent, it can be easily used in all skin graft operation for the fixation of the split thickness skin grafts.


PMID: 17601670 [PubMed - in process]


[viii] Rev Argent Microbiol. 2007 Apr-Jun;39(2):120-3.

[Antimicrobial activity of honey against Escherichia coli]

[Article in Spanish]


Fangio MF, Iurlina MO , Fritz R.


Departamento de Química, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata , Funes 3350 (7600) Mar del Plata , Argentina .


This study assessed the susceptibility of Escherichia coli to the antimicrobial activity of honeys by different techniques. Honeys used were from the southeast region of Buenos Aires province. In order to evaluate antimicrobial activity against Escherichia coli ATCC 25922, solutions containing 0, 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50% (w/v) of honey were prepared. Liquid media (Mueller-Hinton and Mac Conkey broths) were used to assess the Minimal Inhibitory Concentration (MIC) by the serial dilution test. The minimal bactericidal concentration (MBC) was determined by counting on nutritive and Mac Conkey agar. In addition, for the evaluation of total antibacterial activity, the agar diffusion method was used. A reduction of microbial growth of 96% in Mueller-Hinton broth and of 90% in Mac Conkey broth by honey solutions containing 50% and 25% (w/v), was respectively observed. The bactericide action of honey in nutritive agar proved negative. The MBC value in Mac Conkey agar was 25% (w/v) of honey. The methods used for measuring the antibacterial activity in the present work were adequate to prove that honeys are active against E. coli at 25 and 50% (w/v) concentrations. The results obtained by the dilution method with Mueller-Hinton broth and the agar diffusion method were both concordant.


PMID: 17702261 [PubMed - in process]



[ix] J Altern Complement Med. 2007 May;13(4):439-41.

Bactericidal activity of different types of honey against clinical and environmental isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Mullai V, Menon T.


Department of Microbiology, Dr. ALM Post Graduate Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Madras, Taramani, Chen- nai, India.


OBJECTIVES: Honey has had a valued place in traditional medicine for centuries. Renewed interest in honey for various therapeutic purposes, including treatment of infected wounds, has led to the search for different types of honey with antibacterial activity. In this study, we have assessed the antibacterial activity of different types of honey (manuka honey from Australia , heather honey from the United Kingdom , and locally marketed Indian honey). METHODS: The agar dilution method was used to assess the antibacterial activity of honey against 152 isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa by determining minimum inhibitory concentrations. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: The locally available (khadikraft) honey produced the best activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and was found to be better than all of the imported varieties of therapeutic honey.


PMID: 17532737 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


[x] Emerg Med J. 2007 Aug;24(8):592-3.

Mad honey poisoning-related asystole.

Gunduz A, Durmus I, Turedi S, Nuhoglu I, Ozturk S.


Department of Emergency Medicine, Karadeniz Technical University School of Medicine, 61080 Trabzon , Turkey .


Mad honey poisoning is well known in the eastern Black Sea region of Turkey . The cause of the poisoning is the toxin grayanotoxin, found in honey obtained from the nectar of Rhododendron species on the mountains in the region. A 60-year-old man was brought to the emergency department with dizziness and syncope after eating a few spoonfuls of honey. While the patient was being treated, bradycardia and asystole developed. The patient was given 0.5 mg of atropine, and asystole began and ended. The patient was transferred to the catheter laboratory and a temporary pacemaker was implanted. Mad honey poisoning related asystole has not been previously reported, and the rapid response to atropine is significant.


PMID: 17652692 [PubMed - in process]


[xi] Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Aug;45(8):1315-8. Epub 2007 Apr 21.

Poisoning by mad honey: a brief review.

Koca I, Koca AF.


Ondokuz Mayis of University, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Food Engineering, Samsun , Turkey .


Several plants of the Ericaceae family produce grayanotoxins which can poison humans. The best-known of these intoxications involves the eating of 'mad honey (deli bal in Turkish)' contaminated by Rhododendron nectar grayanotoxins. Accounts of mad honey intoxication date back to 401 BC. It is still one of the common food intoxications encountered for humans and livestock in Turkey . Mad honey intoxication's symptoms are dose-related. In mild form, dizziness, weakness, excessive perspiration, hypersalivation, nausea, vomiting and paresthesias are present and close follow-up is enough. However, severe intoxication may lead to life threatening cardiac complications such as complete atrioventricular block that can be treated intravenously. In this review, properties and sources of grayanotoxins, their detection methods and mad honey intoxication are discussed.


PMID: 17540490 [PubMed - in process]