Of course, the most well-known product of bees is honey. Honeybees collect nectar from flowers to make honey by concentrating the nectar and adding enzymes. Analysis of the pollen in honey (melliso-palynology) can be used to determine its origin. Honey can also contain all kinds of contaminants.
Generally speaking, honey is viewed as a natural product with intrinsically high quality. However many factors in the environment of honeybees can affect this quality.
Beekeepers use various products to control the Varroa mite. These products can leave residues in honey. Moreover, residues of pesticides or toxic plant substances that bees collect in the environment can also contaminate the honey.
Bijen@wur has conducted a great deal of research into preventing these residues, since Varroa pesticides are used in the spring. The results of this research have also been published in our Newsletter (for example, in the January 2008 and December 2009 issues).
In 2006 and 2007, Bijen@wur, in cooperation with the beekeepers association NVWA, conducted research into preventing pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in honey. These are naturally occurring plant alkaloids that are toxic for humans. Certain plants from which bees harvest nectar contain high levels of PAs, and the resulting honey can potentially be hazardous. Ragwort is a notorious plant in this regard.
- Beuerle et al. 2010 Pyrrolizidine Alkaloids in Honey: Comparison of analytical methods