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Topic: Bees and Manuka Honey

1st February 2009 at 2:33pm

Christine Stevens
Chichester

5 posts - View

I have had an enquiry from a member of the public as to whether manuka honey might be beneficial to bees to combat some of the various current problems. Whilst I believe manuka honey has antibacterial, as opposed to antiviral properties. It led me to wonder whether there are any studies or reports as to whether bees on manuka are experiencing the same problems as everyone else.

Does anyone know?

Christine
1st February 2009 at 2:50pm

Chris Broad
North East Worcestershire

821 posts - View

Hi Christine

All honey actually has antibacterial properties, but Manuka just does it a bit differently (non-peroxide). Apart from the fact that all honey is amazing stuff, Manuka isn't any "healthier" than anything else. But a clever marketing angle coupled with a bit of interesting science has portrayed it as a wonder substance capable of raising the dead. UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) measures the antibacterial activity level. You could measure the activity level of any honey and you would find the same sort of ranges (I've seen up to UMF 16 for Manuka) but you just wouldn't be able to call it UMF because it's reserved for Manuka only.

New Zealand beekeeping suffers from AFB much more than we do here, probably because they manage it with antibiotics as opposed to destruction. So whatever you do don't think about feeding Manuka honey to your bees in the U.K.

All the best
Chris
1st February 2009 at 2:53pm

RoofTops
Totnes

1558 posts - View

I am not aware of any work on this but no doubt someone will chip in if there has been. However, the issue is unlikely to be clear cut. New Zealand's South Island is varroa free, apart from the odd outbreak so any results from there could not easily be read across to anywhere else. It would have to be evidence from the North Island only. Perhaps most importantly, New Zealand also has very strict rules on importing bees and the numbers imported are I believe very low. This has helped them keep a healthy bee population. Finally, at the risk of inflaming British National pride, New Zealand has some very good beekeepers and the industry is well regulated.

Taken together, the above points suggest to me that any evidence from New Zealand would be difficult to apply elsewhere in the World as the situation there is so different.

And to even the balance to what otherwise appears to be a pro-New Zealand stance I suggest there is nothing particularly special about Manuka honey, it's just that the New Zealander's have done a good marketing and PR job on it!

John Laidler
1st February 2009 at 2:58pm

ian davison

163 posts

Hi Christine

NZ bees have just as many problems as ours Manuka honey or not!

The whole Manuka thing is as much down to good marketing as much as anything else. In fact the very dark strong Manuka honey was not at all popular with many consumers until it's amazing health properties were found;)

It's also thought that UK honeys could come up to grade if we only had the scale of beekeeping/research/marketing/buisiness.

And are not all honeys active unless of course they have been buggered/boiled/blended and even then most commercial packers will pasteurise it to stop crystals forming on the shelf.

Tell her all this and then offer her a jar of your honey for £15.00:D


Regards Ian
1st February 2009 at 7:32pm

Richard Bache
Somerton

693 posts - View

Yep, I agree with much of what has been said above. The original research into antibacterial activity revealled that manuka didn't have the best antibacterial activity, nor was it the only one with non-peroxide activity (1). In fact, Manuka honey doesn't always possess this property. So Unique Manuka Factor isn't unique, isn't always in manuka, and therefore is quite a misnomer (I still reckon trading standards should have picked up on that one).
The whole idea about this factor was that it was theorised that catalase within wounds would reduce the peroxide activity and therefore non-peroxide activity was supposed to be better. I don't know if anyone has ever bothered to do clinical trials to confirm or refute this (dubious) supposition.
Winter, in 1980 (2), explained "No apiaries should be set up close to manuka areas if the keeper intends to produce extracted honey for normal trade purposes". It was therefore convenient that Molan, with students supported by the New Zealand honey Industry General and Charitable Trust [eg Willix et al, 1992 (3)] found that this honey, found only in New Zealand and aplenty, had antibacterial properties and the answer to all modern medical needs. Needless to say, the Honey Industry in New Zealand has benefited a great deal from Molan's work. I spoke to a beekeeper in New Zealand in 2007 and he explained that the rush for prime Manuka spots had "brought out the worst in some beekeepers".

1. Allen KL. Molan PC and Reid GM. A Survey of the Antibacterial Activity of SOme New Zealand Honeys. J Pharm Pharmacol 1992: 43; 817-22.

2. Winter TS. Bee-keeping in New Zealand (4th edition). Wellington: Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries New Zealand. 1980.

3. Willix DJ, Molan PC and Harfoot CG. A Comparison of the Sensitivity of wound-infected species of bacteria to the antibacteria activity of manuka honey and other honey. Journal of Applied Bacteriology 1992; 73: 388-94.
3rd February 2009 at 10:06am

Christine Stevens
Chichester

5 posts - View

Thanks for all the comments and references. I had long believed that the Manuka appeal was indeed just an excellent marketing initiative, with no scientific foundation - until I attended one of Dr Rose Cooper's lectures about the research she has undertaken. This showed that there were indeed some antibacterial properties in the honey from manuka - which varied according to the soil on which the manuka was growing.

It seems, however, that this is probably the extent of its appeal, and there's no point in us all going out to plant manuka bushes around our apiaries (even if they would grow there) in order to solve the problems of the bee world.

Thanks again

Christine :)
3rd February 2009 at 11:51am

RoofTops
Totnes

1558 posts - View

Christine, did the lecturer say she had compared Manuka to other honeys? As I understand it natural enzymes in honey reacts in the presence of moisture and warmth (the skin) and produce hydrogen peroxide from the glucose. This is what kills the bugs.

John Laidler
3rd February 2009 at 12:02pm

Crg

7 posts

ChrisBroad;20113 wrote:
New Zealand beekeeping suffers from AFB much more than we do here, probably because they manage it with antibiotics as opposed to destruction.

It is illegal to use antibiotics or drugs in beehives in New Zealand.

28. Obligation of beekeeper to destroy honey bees and materials

(1) Where an American foulbrood case is discovered in a beehive, the beekeeper who owns that beehive, must within 7 days of becoming aware of that case, destroy by burning all honey bees, bee products, and appliances associated with that honey bee colony unless directed otherwise by an authorised person.
3rd February 2009 at 12:07pm

Crg

7 posts

ian davison;20116 wrote:
NZ bees have just as many problems as ours Manuka honey or not!

They don't tend to have as many problems as the UK because they have stricter controls and management of bees. When I kept bees in NZ many years ago there wasn't even varroa.
ian davison;20116 wrote:
The whole Manuka thing is as much down to good marketing as much as anything else.

I'd agree with that. Also most NZ bees won't have access to Manuka, so even if Manuka did help you wouldn't be able to tell that by looking at NZ bees as a whole.
3rd February 2009 at 12:09pm

RoofTops
Totnes

1558 posts - View

Heavens Crg! If you know what you're talking about you'll be welcome on this Forum. I'll have to start checking my facts before I start pontificating again, lest I be picked up by you.

Welcome to the BBKA killing zone - aka The Discussion Forum.

JL
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