China’s demand for honey is skyrocketing as nutrition experts sing its health benefits. But many of the exotic honeys available online, such as rose, honeysuckle and snow lotus, are being collected in regions where source flowers do not exist or from flowers that are not pollinated by bees.

More than 4,000 Taobao shops claim to be selling rose honey, with many moving up to 6,000 bottles per month. Marketing materials claim the honey is collected from bees that feed on wild roses in Yichun, Heilongjiang province, and that such honey aids in beautification and general wellness.

But orders show the honey actually comes from the decidedly less exotic location of Langfang, Hebei province.

Honeysuckle and ginkgo honey purport to clear internal heat and come in blends of domestic and imported honey. Sellers also claim that gingko honey can fight bacteria and inflammation, lower blood pressure and clear the arteries.

Many supposed boxes of gingko honey are packed in plastic and unlabeled.

Professor Hu, director of the Silkworm Institute at Zhejiang University, advised being skeptical of honey sold online unless the seller can provide proof of his raw materials and brewing process. Honey is composed of the nectar of plants, honeydew secretions and a mixture of exudates collected from bees. But the pollen of many supposed origin flowers can’t even be collected by bees, Hu said.

“I think it’s a commercial ploy to cater to consumer’s curiosity,” Hu said.

“I asked one seller where his lotus honey came from. He said it was collected in the Tianshan mountains. The altitude alone already proves that whatever they are selling doesn’t come from bees,” Hu said.

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