CSIRO scientists have taken a DNA test, and turns out, they're 100 per cent that certain about the exact location a bee has made your next jar of honey, right down to the very tree.
In a national first, testing has been conducted to determine the exact location and what plant species have been pollinated by bees to create honey, by looking at the food's genetic code.
The new method - developed by the CSIRO, University of Melbourne and Curtin University - is expected to significantly benefit Australia's $100 million honey industry and could be used to prove the authenticity of native honey.
CSIRO postdoctoral fellow Liz Milla said it sometimes took up to three days to get a match during the DNA testing.
"The focus of the study was to identify all the different plants in the honey, and so we compared the DNA in the honey to DNA databases of plants in different areas," Dr Milla said.
"Because Australia has such unique flora and biodiversity regions, if the species of plants in the honey match closely, we can then determine the honey came from there.
"People are interested in what is in the honey and what the bees were eating."
Researchers used a technique called pollen DNA metabarcoding, which sequences a short sequence of DNA and compared it with genetic collections housed in locations such as the Australian National Herbarium.
Previous methods to determine the make-up of honey involved using microscopes, which was often painstaking and time-consuming.
Dr Milla said 15 different honey varieties were tested, with eucalyptus playing a major role in its creation.
"We detected the major floral source on the label in all commercially produced honeys," she said.
"All of the honeys were composed of mixed florals, which reflect the diverse natural diets of honeybees.
"We found that honeys from eastern and western Australia were easy to tell apart, and we could categorise most honeys according to Australia's 89 geographically distinct bioregions from which they came."
It's estimated 4500 tonnes of Australian honey is exported each year, with the new DNA testing expected to play a key role in certifying the composition of the food.
It comes after a 2018 study revealed almost 20 per cent of Australian honey samples were fake, with some brands showing adulteration.
"We're happy to work with the honey industry and incorporate this as a testing tool for honey," Dr Milla said.
The CSIRO researcher said the honey testing had the potential for a wide variety of uses in the future.
"We can then track the diet of bees around Australia, and for beekeepers, that can be used to see what sort of foraging is going on," Dr Milla said.
"The variety of pollen and nutrition is an important factor for bee health. Bees need diverse diets, because the honey they produce is quite varied."
The research was published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.
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