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Ragwort repeatedly makes the headlines because of the toxins it contains. The pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) have also been detected in honey several times. The substances accumulate in the body and, if contaminated food is consumed regularly, can be toxic to humans and lead to liver damage.

Bees usually avoid ragwort

Bees avoid the herb

Ragwort is a source of food for many other insects such as butterflies and flies, but not for bees. If more interesting nectar plants are available, bees do not even fly at the ragwort, because the nectar yield of the bright yellow flowers is too low.

However, if the diligent pollen collectors do not find any other food plants, they are forced to harvest the pollen of the ragwort. The little buzzards excrete the toxins directly. However, the honey can be contaminated.

food limits

In addition to honey, traces of PA have also been detected in eggs and milk. Experts emphasize that every microgram of the substance is too much, since PA accumulates in the body and gradual damage can occur. The toxin may even cause cancer. For this reason, the EU is currently discussing the introduction of a uniform limit value.

However, in a recent analysis of 126 honey samples, only seven samples were above the recommended limit of 140 micrograms of PA per kilo. In almost half of the samples no PA could be detected.

Advice for hobby beekeepers

When ragwort is in full bloom, the honey harvest in our agricultural landscape is almost over for many beekeepers. In order to avoid PA contamination of the honey, experts advise extracting the honey before the ragweed blooms and leaving the rest of the summer flow to the bees as natural food.

The PA content of the honey is harmless for the insects and, unlike horses and cattle, they are not harmed.


If you don't want to do without tasty summer honey and at the same time want to be sure that the honey does not contain any PA, you should obtain it from a beekeeper in the region. Ask if their hives are near any major ragwort stands.

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