This post is a sort of odd post for this blog but I learned something very interesting today. If you google "purple honey" this blog is the number 1 result that isn't shopping or ad related content. This blog gets repeated "hits" every day to an old post of mine about the purple honey that our bees produced. I've also received too many emails in response to that post for me to personally respond to them all. So to answer some of those questions and to clarify a few things I'll respond here... and then for fun my kids and I will see how long it takes this post to climb up the ranks in the google search engine.
Yes, our bees made purple honey. Lots of bees can make purple honey. I have also read the book "The Secret Life of Bees" and the teensy little reference there to purple honey. Most of the time when bees produce purple honey it is in smallish amounts and/or mixed with other types of honey within the same hive. We just happened to have an odd and fairly rare outcome of one hive producing nothing but purple honey one summer. For the record I don't believe for one second that it came from bees "sucking" on or eating the juice from elderberries either since this was well after the elderberries here were completely gone as well as the blueberries, blackberries or any other juicy berry.
From what we understand in having researched this issue and spoken with several professional persons in the field of bees and honey production it has to do with several different issues. The soil plays a part in the color of the honey because of it's influence on the mineral content in the plant pollens and nectars that the bees take in. The types of plants that the bees feed on plays a part in the production of purple honey especially in our area because there is such a wide variety of forage available to the bees that it is particularly difficult to isolate what they would be taking in at any given time. The weather also plays a part in the production of the purple honey because if there is too much rain the bees can't forage and if there isn't enough rain certain plants won't bloom and provide food for the bees.
The bees must have the exact conditions present at the exact right time in the bloom cycle to be able to produce purple honey at all. What a lot of people simply don't understand is that honey isn't the sum total of what bees take in, nor is it the bees primary food. Honey is the total of the bee bread, which is made by the bees from pollen and nectar, that has been semi-digested and regurgitated into a cell of honeycomb, then evaporated to the appropriate water density and capped with a bit of fresh wax to store it. Honey is the bee's food of last resort, they simply store it up for the winter months or when there is any other form of a dearth of forage available.
There are several possibilities of which types of blooms produce purple honey but the main gist of it is that to produce any quantity of purple honey the bees must have several different things bloom in a certain order and must have access to each bloom. For example soybeans, kudzu, cotton... those things bloom in that order. I'm not saying that that those are the things that cause purple honey but to show you how the bees would need to first carry the pollen from the soybeans from the iron and magnesium heavy soil to the hive, then the pollen from the kudzu which blooms after the soybeans are finished, then the cotton which is blooming just toward the end of the kudzu bloom.
All of that having been said, if anyone ever gets the opportunity to taste real purple honey that is raw and not pasturized you are definitely in for a TREAT!! There is no flavor like it in the world and we just loved it and hope that our bees make some more soon. I hope that y'all are at least a little bit more clear on purple honey and that at least some of your questions have been answered.