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Enhancing Forest and Bee Health for High-Value Medicinal Honey

The antimicrobial properties of manuka honey are unique and specifically due to methyl glyoxyl (MGO), which originates from manuka nectar and is highly antibacterial. Honey from other sources can be equally or even more active, particularly toward fungi and viruses, however this is due to the production hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). This activity is bee-derived, as honeybees produce and secrete glucose oxidase (GOX), which produces H2O2 from glucose in the presence of water. High GOX/H2O2 activity in honeys is not clearly associated with floral source, and a given source may yield honey with high, low or no activity. There is evidence that GOX production instead aligns with bee health, and that the capacity to produce GOX, and therefore H2O2 in honey, conveys health and protection from disease on the beehive. Furthermore, recent studies have found bees that forage on a diverse diet that is derived from rich and varied flora have increased GOX levels. These observations shift the paradigm of active honey production away from the desire for monofloral honey produced from stands of single plant species and plantations, toward honey derived from diverse native floral sources, with a recognition that:


Healthy forests mean healthy bees, which in turn mean active honey.


NSW forest and bushland is exceptionally high in biodiversity, and NSW honeys have been shown to produce high levels of H2O2, but measuring and optimising this production remain understudied. This represents a lost opportunity for the NSW Apiary Industry to benefit from the lucrative antimicrobial honey market. This project will undertake a comprehensive analysis of bee and beehive health in NSW apiaries, linking this to GOX production and the antimicrobial properties of honey products

Our aim is to improve bee and beehive health and value-add to NSW honey within the medicinal honey industry.

Find out more at the University of Sydney's Carter Lab website below:


Antimicrobial honey has global demand and commands exceptionally high prices. Manuka honey provides the textbook case study where recognition of its unique antimicrobial properties transformed it from a low-value product to an internationally traded commodity with the most pure and active honey fetching more than $1,000 per kilo. In contrast, most NSW honey sells for around $12/kg, with beekeepers receiving $5-6/kg


With honeys produced by healthy bees with broad and biodiverse diets, we can increase that by wide margins!


Access to a diverse array of human pathogens at the University of Sydney allows us to gain a better understanding of the antimicrobial value of NSW honeys. CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK


  1. Recognition and protection of biodiverse native forests as a source of highly valuable products, including antimicrobial honey.

  2. Promotion of access to native floral resources by beekeepers.

  3. Promotion of beekeeping as a sustainable and ethical industry that protects native forests and fosters bee health and husbandry.

  4. Greater consumer access to antimicrobial honey and its associated health benefits, which cannot be met by manuka honey alone.

  5. Upskilling beekeepers in scientific investigation and problem solving, thus creating a two-way research program with the results clearly communicated and understood by both parties.



This project will be undertaken at the University of Sydney. The University has state-of-the-art laboratories for manipulating bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens and an excellent collection of suitable strains, including golden Staph, Candida (the cause of thrush), multidrug-resistant species and coronavirus surrogate strains. The University’s core research facilities provide access to world-class infrastructure.

  1. Analysis of the relationship between NSW forest biodiversity and bee and beehive health, with health assessed by beekeeper appraisal, honey production, presence of potential pathogens and GOX levels.

  2. Determining whether high GOX in hives and bees corresponds to high antimicrobial activity in the beehive and the honey, by testing the honey on a spectrum of selected viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens.

  3. Development of simple, validated methods for testing GOX/H2O2 production in honey samples to enable rapid and reliable scoring of honey samples for potentially high antimicrobial activity.

  4. Dissemination of information about NSW honey, including through the NSW Apiarist Association website and channels, conferences, beekeeper meetings, public talks and other means to improve confidence and investment into the NSW honey industry

Measurable Outputs:

  • Scientific data published in reports for the Apiary Industry and associated government bodies, brochures and websites for consumers, and open-access scientific journals for the scientific community.

  • Validated methods for screening and testing honey samples for GOX/H2O2 production.

  • Secure access for beekeepers to diverse NSW floral resources.

  • New antimicrobial honey products for marketing and commercialization.

  • A series of workshops bringing together beekeepers, industry bodies, government and researchers around specific industry challenges and opportunities

  • Key messages to take to market around the health and environmental benefits of NSW honey

  • Public seminars to raise awareness about the quality of NSW honey.

This project provides the NSW Apiary Industry with vital scientific rigour that can define the quality, health and environmental benefits of NSW honey to take to market. This work will have a significant and important impact on NSW native forest management, remediation. It will provide value and increased market security for NSW beekeepers and the Apiary Industry as a whole.

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Two members of the Carter Lab on their first beekeeping trip, courtesy of the Remnant Lab

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