A disoriented brown bear cub, believed to have become intoxicated after eating an excessive amount of “mad honey”, was rescued in northwestern Turkey’s Duzce province on Thursday.
Mad honey, or “deli bal” in Turkish, is produced in small quantities by beekeepers in the Kaçkar mountains above the Black Sea, the only place in the world other than the foothills of the Himalayas where indigenous species of rhododendrons produce a potent neurotoxin called grayanotoxin.
If bees feed on enough rhododendron nectar, the mud-red honey they produce has a sharp scent and bitter taste – and, for mammal consumers, a potential high.
A small spoonful eaten on its own or taken with hot water or boiled milk is enough to induce a mildly hallucinogenic or euphoric state.
It is normally taken before breakfast as a traditional treatment for hypertension, impotence and a number of other conditions.
Eighteenth-century Europeans called it miel fou, importing it from the Ottomans to add to ale for an extra buzz.
Too much, however, can reduce blood pressure to potentially dangerous levels and induce nausea, fainting, seizures, arrhythmia and, in rare cases, death. Dozens of people a year are admitted to hospital in Turkey for mad honey poisoning.
The afflicted bear was brought to a vet, where she was treated. Officials said the animal was in good condition and would probably be released into the wild in the coming days.
Turkey’s agriculture ministry used Twitter to urge citizens to come up with a name for the bear.