Office: Room 5.12.2, HW Pearson Building
Research topic: Characterization of botanical and geographical origin of the honeys from the Cape Floristic Region.
Supervisors: Prof. Muthama Muasya and Dr. Saúl Manzano.
Honey is a sought-after product for its health benefits and sweetness. Authentic honey consists of only the pure product that has naturally been produced by bees, however due to the great demand, honey products are often diluted with external sugars and sold as pure honey. For instance, Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium J.R. Forst & G. Forst, 1775) honey is reputed for its medicinal properties and the demand for the honey is far greater than what can be produced in New Zealand. Opportunists have taken to selling cheap honey produced in other countries as authentic Manuka honey, therefore earning profits from a counterfeit product. Honey fraud occurs generally one of two ways: honey is supplemented with external sugars and products to increase the volume of ‘honey’ to sell, or cheap counterfeit honey could be sold from other geographic origins as authentic expensive honey. To counter these fraudulent practices melissopalynologists can use the pollen and the chemical composition, isotope signatures, and genetic analysis of honeys and the bees associated with the production of the honey to measure the authenticity of the honey.
Honeys are often associated with the specific flora the bees collect products from and these honeys are often sold more expensively due to the speciality of the honey. One example is in the western Cape province, South Africa, you can buy fynbos honey. These honeys have been produced by bees who forage in the immensely diverse fynbos region of the Cape Floristic region (CFR). However, honeys from elsewhere, but with similar organoleptic properties could be sold under this denomination. This represents a great cost to the local honey industry, whose reputation and product marketing can be deeply affected by this fraud.
So far, no published comprehensive studies provide tools for the demarcation of local CFR honeys and this represents an opportunity for vibrant, necessary research.
- Multidisciplinary taxonomy (Palynology and Entomology)
- Phylogenetic systematics
- Scanning and transmission electron microscopy