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How to Extract DNA from Honey

Bees making honey

From being used as a gift to the gods of ancient Egypt to sweetening tea and topping biscuits, humans have been consuming honey for thousands of years.1 However, honey can be used for more than just food, as it is teeming with DNA. This genetic information can be used to study everything from honey bee health to the source of the nectar that gives honey its distinctive flavors.

Sweet Insights

The DNA from honey is largely from pollen and can be used to tell what types of flowers the honey is made from and show diversity in a bee’s diet.2 In addition to cellular DNA, honey bees also deposit cell-free DNA into the honey, which can be used to study bee health. Moreover, any microbes deposited into the honey will also be reflected in the overall genetic profile and may give additional insights into bee health.

Colony Collapse Disorder

Recently there has been a devastating decline in the global bee population, with observation of colony collapse and mass loss of worker bees, called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). With representatives from government agencies and academia, in 2007 the USDA established a CCD Steering Committee in hopes to understand and take action against CCD. One of the main components of the CCD Action Plan is to survey and collect data to determine the extent of CCD and help counter bee mortality factors.

To study this, researchers are now extracting DNA from honey to track the diet and overall health of honey bees. It is possible that the insight gained from these studies will help researchers better understand the causes of such colony collapse phenomena and help save future bee populations.

A Sticky Situation

Unfortunately, DNA extraction from honey can be very difficult due to its high viscosity and low water content. One workaround is to dilute the honey prior to extraction. With smaller proportional amounts of honey, the lysis buffer of a DNA extraction kit can then enable efficient purification. While processing honey can be very difficult, these steps will ensure a smooth and easy workflow.

For cellular DNA extraction from honey:

  1. Dilute DNA with water in a 1:3 dilution (for instance 100 ml of honey with 300 ml water)
  2. Incubate at 55°C for 30 minutes to homogenize
  3. Separate into smaller volumes and centrifuge at 10,000 x g for 10 minutes in a microcentrifuge, or in a large centrifuge at 3,000 x g for 15 minutes
  4. Remove supernatant
  5. Resuspend in PBS
  6. Continue with the extraction by using the ZymoBIOMICS DNA Kits

For total (including cellular and cell-free) DNA extraction from honey

  • Dilute DNA with water in a 1:3 dilution (for instance 100 ml of Honey with 300 ml Water)
  • Incubate at 55°C for 30 minutes to homogenize
  • Add 70 µl of Urine Conditioning Buffer to every 1 ml of honey solution
  • Centrifuge at 10,000 x g for 10 minutes in a microcentrifuge, or in a large centrifuge at 3,000 x g for 15 minutes
  • Remove supernatant
  • Resuspend in PBS
  • Continue with the extraction by using the ZymoBIOMICS DNA Kits

Using analysis of DNA found in honey to will give us a deeper understanding about bee diet and health. Moreover, expanding our understanding of factors leading to CCD will aid in conservation efforts to protect a key component of our global agriculture industry.

Learn more about the Zymobiomics DNA Kits used in this blog:

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References:
1. https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/history/honey-in-the-pyramids.aspx
2. Di Pasquale G, Salignon M, Le Conte Y, Belzunces LP, Decourtye A, Kretzschmar A, Suchail S, Burnet J, Alaux C. Influece of Pollen Nutrition on Honey Bee Health: Do Pollen Quality and Diversity Matter?. PLoS. ONE. 2013;8:8.