dosentti Wirta Helena

203025 €

All the stories honey can tell – a snapshot of the environment as revealed by honey

Tieteellinen tutkimus / siihen pohjautuva työ | Nelivuotinen

To describe the environment and the ecological communities in it, we need to know what species are there. As tens of thousands of bees forage, they sample the environment and all the organisms their hive interacts with. Honey itself is a medium in which pieces of tissue and microbes are preserved without growing – an ideal storage of the environmental sample brought home by the bees. With this project, I turn honey from food to an informative sample of the environment. Building on modern DNA techniques, I will develop the methods for identifying all components in honey, including DNA of plant, animal, bacterial, viral and fungal origins. Thereby I expose all interaction partners of the bee, as the plants the bees use to collect nectar and pollen, the bacteria and viruses causing diseases to the bees, the pests as well as the gut microbiota of the bees. I will also describe the environment of the bee hive by the soil microbes and other environmental tissue, such as animal cells, unintentionally carried to the hive by the bees. By doing this at both a local, a regional and a global level, I will harness the full potential of honey as an environmental sample to study how the interactions of bees with other organisms vary at different spatial scales.