Science throws honey researchers a curve ball on hunt for bioactivity secrets


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A research project screening Western Australian honey for bioactivity traits that could support health products is uncovering some surprising results.

As part of an AgriFutures™ Honey Bee and Pollination Program supported project, researchers from the University of Western Australia, together with the Cooperative Research Centre for Honey Bee Products, are analysing honeys that are native to the state as part of a three year study.

Initial analyses of 50 WA honeys is now completed as part of the ‘Development of honey products from a biodiversity hotspot’ project.

Lead researcher Dr Kate Hammer said so far, the highest antibacterial activity was found for White gum, Jarrah and Marri honeys.

“These results were expected to an extent, especially with Jarrah, as WA has already gained a lot of experience and knowledge with Jarrah honey as a unique product with antibacterial activity,” Dr Hammer said.

“However what has been incredibly surprising is that our investigation of relationships between antibacterial activity and other honey characteristics, such as honey colour or hydrogen peroxide, did not show any significant correlations.

“This means that darker honeys are not necessarily more active than lighter colour honeys.”

Further to that, Dr Hammer said that even though it is already established that hydrogen peroxide contributes to antibacterial activity, the study has found that it is not the only factor.

“In our analyses we found there were some honeys with relatively low hydrogen peroxide levels but reasonably high antibacterial activity, so future chemical analyses of these specific honeys is planned to further investigate this finding,” she said.

Dr Hammer’s findings will be presented at the Bee Industry Council of Western Australia’s (BICWA) 2018 Conference which gets underway Friday, 25 May 2018.

The two-day conference is being held at the Swan Valley Oasis Resort and is proudly sponsored by the AgriFutures™ Honey Bee and Pollination Program.

Program Manager Melanie Bradley said the state conference was a brilliant opportunity to showcase the robust research currently taking place not just in WA’s honey and pollination sectors, but across Australia.

“Our program aims to support research, development and extension activities that will ensure a productive, sustainable and more profitable Australian beekeeping industry, as well as secure the pollination of Australia’s horticultural and agricultural crops,” Ms Bradley said.

“It’s critical work, with the beekeeping industry offering significant value to agriculture and the economy in general through pollination services, and as Dr Hammer’s research points to, the potential value of honey and honey products in medical uses.”

Dr Hammer will present her findings at 3:45pm Saturday, 26 May 2018.

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