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Honeydew, Lerp, Lerp scale, Manna

Deutsch: Honigtau

Honeydew is the name of a sweet liquid that is produced by some insects. Aphids and scale insects produce European honeydew. In Australia larvae of some psyllids, for example Psylla eucalypti, hide under a protective shield of crystallized honeydew. In this form it is called lerp or lerp scale. Honeydew contains several sugar varieties, among them saccharose, glucose and fructose and smaller amounts of other oligosaccharides like maltose, melezitose and fructomaltose. Honeydew-producing insects feed on plant saps, which contain large amounts of liquid that are secreted as honeydew.

Some plants secrete a sweet liquid similar to honeydew when attacked by insects. When the water of this liquid has evaporated, the sugar comes off the leaves in large white flakes. This is called manna.

Many insects use honeydew as a food. They lick it off leaves or even suck it directly from the insects producing it, as some ants do. Bees collect honeydew to produce a dark and aromatic honeydew honey.

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Honeydew in human diet

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Honeydew has little importance in human diet. In western societies it occurs only as the before mentioned honeydew honey. In some European and Asian countries it is very popular though and supposed to have qualities beneficial to health.

In Australia honeydew, especially in its crystallized form of lerp, has been a regular part of the Aboriginal diet for thousands of years. Due to its sweetness it is a popular treat, especially for kids. The high sugar content is a good source of quick energy. Crystallized honeydew or lerp scale on the leaves of eucalypt trees is often scraped off with the teeth. Manna that has fallen to the ground in flakes is collected and sometimes mixed with water to produce sweet drinks.

Honeydew is still often collected and eaten by Aboriginal people. In modern western-influenced Bushtucker cuisine on the other hand it is not normally used.

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