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A Different Kind of Honey

Team TFS
Team TFS

I thought a knew a lot about honey until I read a recently published article on analyzing honey from stingless honeybees. I had no idea that there was such an insect, and more importantly I learned that the honey from these bees is very different, in terms of carbohydrate composition, compared to honey produced by European honeybees, the bees that are used worldwide for honey production. First, let’s start with the honey we purchase at our local market. This honey is about 90% fructose and glucose with a ratio of fructose to glucose just over 1. This honey also contains di-, tri-, and tetrasaccharides in small amounts, and these are markers for the honey’s origin as well as floral source. High-performance anion-exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection (HPAE-PAD) has long been one of the methods used to determine a honey’s floral and geographic source as well as its authenticity. We published a method that uses a Dionex CarboPac PA210 column and eluent generation for honey analysis ( ). Compared to previous methods, this method resolved more sugars, eliminated the need to prepare acetate eluents (only hydroxide eluent is needed), and provided a higher level of automation (i.e. no eluent preparation required).


Now let’s examine the new publication. The authors, from Australia, also use a Dionex CarboPac PA210 column with eluent generation for their honey carbohydrate analysis, though with different elution conditions. The carbohydrate composition of this honey consists of approximately two thirds trehalulose, about a quarter erlose (a trisaccharide), and only about 10% fructose. This composition is obviously very different from the honey we typically consume. The disaccharide trehalulose is considered to have beneficial properties for the human diet, and thus this honey is highly valued. The authors examined if the bees could be fed certain sugar solutions to alter the honey’s carbohydrate composition to possibly increase its value. For those interested in reading the details, the reference is:  Hungerford, N.L., et al., J. Agric. Food Chem. 2021, 69, 10292−10300. Please note that I cannot provide you with this reference due to its copyright. 

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