A bear cub drugged itself with a “hallucinogenic” honey, produced for centuries by beekeepers in the Black Sea region and the Himalayas. The substance, also known as bitter honey for its pungent taste, is the result of bees feeding on the pollen of rhododendron flowers.
Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said the bear cub was rescued after it was found passed out in the country’s northwestern Duzce province, about 130 miles east of Istanbul.
The pup is currently in good condition after being cared for by vets.
According to The Washington Post, the baby bear ate an excessive amount of a honey delicacy, which has been cultivated for centuries by beekeepers in the Black Sea region and the Himalayas.
Bear completely dazed after consuming ‘hallucinogenic’ honey
The substance, also known as bitter honey for its pungent taste, is the result of bees feeding on the pollen of rhododendron flowers. The brightly colored plants carry a natural neurotoxin called grayanotoxin which, when eaten, can induce euphoria, hallucinations and intoxication, as the little bear quickly found out.
A video shared by Turkey’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry showed the bear completely dazed after consuming the “hallucinogenic” honey. In the back of a pickup truck, the bear cub sat belly up and legs splayed, mouth slightly open, eyes wide, and for a few seconds she squirmed in a daze and confusion.
The clip quickly turned the chick into a local celebrity. After asking citizens for name ideas, the government agency introduced her as Balkiz — meaning “honey girl” or “honey daughter” in Turkish — along with a photo of the now-awake teddy bear posing in the tip of a branch with a half-eaten watermelon.
A Greek army came across hallucinogenic honey in 401 BC.
Although Balkiz is the latest female bear to suffer such symptoms, she is far from the first to do so. Thousands of cases of poisoning have been reported worldwide throughout history.
According to research by Texas A&M anthropology professor Vaughn Bryant, one of the earliest records of honey having hallucinogenic effects comes from Xenophon of Athens, who was a student of the philosopher Socrates. The Greek historian wrote that a Greek army came across this substance in 401 BC. while the troops were returning from the Black Sea after a victory over the Persians.
“They decided to feast on local honey stolen from some nearby beehives. A few hours later, the troops started vomiting, had diarrhea, became disoriented and could no longer stand; the next day the effects were gone and they continued on their way to Greece,” Bryant recounted in a 2014 press release.
Other bands were not nearly as lucky. About 334 years later, Roman soldiers led by Pompey the Great fell into a honey trap planted by the Persian army, who “gathered pots full of local honey and left them for the Roman troops to find” , Bryant said. “They ate the honey, became disoriented and could not fight. The Persian army returned and killed over 1,000 Roman soldiers with few casualties of their own.
This honey is incredibly hard to find
Centuries later, Union troops encountered the hallucinogenic honey near the Appalachian Mountains during the Civil War. Like the Greeks and Romans before them, the Americans got dizzy and sick, Bryant said.
However, this honey is incredibly hard to find, The Guardian reported. Rhododendrons that produce the necessary neurotoxins are found in few places and are most prolific in the mountainous regions of the Black Sea and the foothills of the Himalayas. Foragers must go to great lengths to acquire the red substance, climbing tall trees and rocks and often repelling one of the world’s largest bee species. A pound of such honey can sell for nearly $170, Bryant said. In Turkey, a kilogram of high-quality “delicacy ball” can sell for up to 2,000 pounds, making it one of the most expensive honeys in the world, notes The Guardian.
The price also reflects the medicinal value some people attribute to bitter-tasting honey. It is often touted as a natural remedy for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders, arthritis and sore throats. Some even use it as an aphrodisiac or as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, according to a 2018 report published in the scientific journal RSC Advances.