• Oregano Infused Honey? — Chromatography Investigates Health Benefits for Bees

Gas Chromatography

Oregano Infused Honey? — Chromatography Investigates Health Benefits for Bees

Aug 29 2017

Most people accept the importance of bees to life on planet Earth. Without bees, and their ability to pollinate plants, it is likely that life would be very different to what it is now — at the very least we might not have apples and oranges in our fruit bowls.

But bees have had a hard time of it in recent years. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the parasitic varroa mites have caused devastation to hive populations. Although governments seem to be finally acting against neonicotinoid pesticides — thought to be a factor in CCD — bees still our help to ensure that they — and us — can survive.

Helping our buzzing friends

For many of us, there is limited scope for helping bees. We can buy organic, if sales of organic fruit and vegetables increase then the more growers will switch to organic and reduce the amount of pesticides that are used. Another way if to shop at smaller local shops as they are likely to buy from smaller scale growers who maintain good environmental practices. Alternatively, you can become a beekeeper.

Some beekeepers though are working with scientists to find other ways they can help their bees. And researchers at the New Mexico State University (NMSU) have been working with a local beekeeper Melanie Kirby to investigate the medicinal effects of oregano for bees. In a press release from NMSU:

“Bee health is of critical importance in pollinator productivity,” Kirby said. “As a beekeeper, pollinator productivity is becoming more and more challenging due to weather fluctuation, increase in pest and disease issue, compromising habitats and management practices.”

Oregano — not just for pizza

The plant that might be beneficial to the bees is Monarda fistulosa, a member of the mint family and known as wild bergamot or bee balm. It is also known as Oregano de las Sierra for its oregano flavour — with the flavour coming from the chemical compounds that are also linked to the plant’s medicinal properties. It was the medicinal properties that the team of farmer Todd Bates, beekeeper Kirby and NMSU researcher Rob Heyduck were interested in.

Oregano has been shown to provide relief from respiratory and digestive problems, and part of the research is to discover if these benefits are passed onto the honey produced from bees who pollinate the plants. But the team are also interested to discover if the plants have any effect on the health of bees by evaluating the parasite loading of bees who feed on the oregano plants with bees fed on a different diet.

Gas chromatography is being used to analyse the nectar and honey samples to determine which chemical compounds are transferred through the pollination process. The use of chromatography to analyse for residues is discussed in the article, LC-MS/MS and GC-MS/MS Multi Residue Pesticide Analysis in Fruit and Vegetable Extracts on a Single Tandem Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer.

So next time you’re eating pizza, think twice before you move that bee along.

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