The Mishna in Bava Basra (2:10) says: (all translations from Sefaria)

מַרְחִיקִין אֶת הַמִּשְׁרָה מִן הַיָּרָק, וְאֶת הַכְּרֵשִׁין מִן הַבְּצָלִים, וְאֶת הַחַרְדָּל מִן הַדְּבוֹרִים. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי מַתִּיר בַּחַרְדָּל:

A pool for soaking flax must be distanced from vegetables, and leeks from onions, and mustard plant from bees. Rabbi Yose permits mustard plant.

The gemara (Bava Basra 25b) explains:

תנא רבי יוסי מתיר בחרדל שיכול לומר לו עד שאתה אומר לי הרחק חרדלך מן דבוריי הרחק דבורך מן חרדליי שבאות ואוכלות לגלוגי חרדליי:

A Sage taught that Rabbi Yosei permits one not to do so in the case of mustard because he can say to the beekeeper: Before you tell me: Distance your mustard from my bees, I can tell you: Distance your bees from my mustard, as they come and eat my mustard plants.

As far as I can find on the Internet, there is no indication that mustard is actually harmful at all to honey making. As a matter of fact, this website says that it actually makes perfectly fine honey (search for the word "mustard" on the website). It is on the Wikipedia article List of pollen sources, and is for sale on Amazon.

Is this some factual difference from back then, that the mustard was worse for honey? Or is this another example of Chazal possibly being mistaken? Or a case of נשתנה הטבע (the reality has changed)?

  • 2
    From the gemara’s reasoning of rabbi yosei, it’s not because it’s bad for the bees, it’s because they eat the mustard. So chachamim say: he must move the mustard (unless he doesn’t mind it getting eaten, I guess) and rabbi yosei says: he doesn’t have to move it, because he can tell the other to move his bees.
    – Lo ani
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 4:40
  • Just a guess: The bees eat the mustard, and the taste gets into the honey, which worsens the latter.
    – msh210
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 9:14
  • Here there is a direct reference to this question (in Hebrew). Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 10:10
  • 1
    Where does the Gemara state that the reason is due to any type of harms; we are just discussing boundaries here.
    – Dr. Shmuel
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 12:30
  • 2
    The entire perek is about various types of הזק שכנים. But the Gemara says on 18b that r’ yose thinks that the bees eat the mustard, while the rabanan don’t. Rashi and rabeinu Gershom say that the הזק that the mustard causes the bees is that the mustard is spicy and causes the bees to “cool off their mouths by eating the honey”. The rambam in פירוש המשנה says that the הזק is that the proximity of the mustard will cause the honey to be bad. Being that the rambams explanation is much more in line with the reality, it is on his explanation that I am asking. Bees do not “eat” flowers or honey.
    – moses
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


Well, despite my general lack of agricultural knowledge, a cursory skim through this google search result would seem to indicate that while mustard is good for pollen production, it's not actually that great at producing honey. This could be explained by the rashi's explanation that the bees eat the spicy mustard and it causes them to consume their own honey. So I don't think any answer using נשתנה הטבע is necessary.

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