Honey Authenticity

Thursday 10 December 2020

Every day there are many new research papers published relating to honey bees.  The team at ATTTA spend a considerable amount of time scanning these newly published papers to highlight the ones that are most relevant to our region’s beekeepers.  There have been a couple of late that are interesting but outside our standard themes which usually relates directly to honey bee health.  Have a look at the noteworthy examples presented below.

Honey, along with olive oil and milk, is always in the top three in any list of most adulterated food products.  This reputation is bad for honey generally but great for our local producers who have the best quality and most authentic honey available.  The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has just produced another report detailing their work to protect Canadians from adulterated honey.

Honey Authenticity

Honey from Atlantic Canada has an excellent reputation for its quality and authenticity.  This is not the case with honey produced in other areas and the ongoing battle to identify adulterated honey coming into Canada continues.  Both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Canadian Honey Council put significant resources into this battle.  A recent report from the CFIA shows the results of their testing from April 2019 to March 2020.  This year’s sampling methods have been improved with two analyses being used: Stable Isotope Ratio Analysis (SIRA) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR).  Samples were collected based on two criteria which were “Targeted Sampling” or “Marketplace Monitoring”.  This resulted in a combined number of 275 samples with results below.

Targeted sampling*

  • Of the 127 samples collected, 16 were domestic, 111 were imported
  • 110 samples were satisfactory by both SIRA and NMR methods: 86.6% (110/127)
  • 17 samples were unsatisfactory by one or both methods: 13.3% (17/127)
  • Of these 17 unsatisfactory results, 16 were imported and 1 was domestic

Marketplace monitoring*

  • Of the 148 samples, 103 were domestic, 45 were imported
  • 145 samples were satisfactory by both SIRA and NMR methods: 98% (145/148)
  • 3 samples were unsatisfactory by one or both methods: 2% (3/148)
  • Of these 3 unsatisfactory results, all were identified as imported
*Results from “Report: Honey authenticity surveillance results (2019 to 2020)”, Government of Canada.

Honey Bee Gut Bacteria

To discover that the honey bee gut is full of bacteria should not be a surprise to beekeepers.  The newly published research article entitled, ‘Honey bee gut an unexpected niche of human pathogen” may give us additional specific understanding of honey bee gut contents.  Not only does the gut microbiota contain organisms both harmful and helpful to the bees but there also may be some of these that are pathogenic to humans.  See figure 1. for all bacteria found by these researchers in the honey bee gut.  Along with many bacteria specific to bees, this research identifies two which are harmful to humans.  One bacterium, Salmonella enterica, is found broadly in our environment.  This bacterium has over 2000 serovars, or distinct variations of the species, which as a group are the leading bacterial cause of morbidity and mortality globally.  There is a suggestion that this organism, which has very little host adaptation, is also harmful for honey bees.  Another bacterium, Shigella sonnei, causes disease in humans and possibly honey bees.  It is the causative pathogen in the human disease shigellosis which results in severe gastrointestinal symptoms.  As we learn more about these pathogens and their effect on honey bees, we will better understand the overall health impact.  As beekeepers we need to realize that biosecurity, hygiene and sanitary practices are important to protect our health and that of our bees.

Fig. 1Diversity of bacteria harboring in the guts of worker bees*.

*Full article 

Nosema and Learning

Nosemosis is a serious disease of honey bees and we are learning more about this in our region through research undertaken by ATTTA (see last weeks blog!).  Outside our region there is also interesting research being done on Nosema ssp.  A recent investigation entitled, “Effects of Nosema ceranae (Dissociodihaplophasida: Nosematidae) and Flupyradifurone on Olfactory Learning in Honey Bees, Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera: Apidae)” examined the behavioral effects of specific pesticide exposure and Nosema ceranae infection.  Treated honey bees were subjected to an olfactory conditioning test as an indicator of learning and memory.  The pesticide flupyradifurone, unsurprisingly, affected the behavior of treated honey bees.  Bees infected with Nosema ceranae, as part of the trial, had reduced learning behavior which reflected their ability to smell and remember a food source.  So not only does the Nosema organism directly impact the health of the bees but additionally may impact their ability to forage.

Full article https://academic.oup.com/jinsectscience/article/20/6/29/6000118

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