Feeding Sugars to Stingless Bees: Identifying the Origin of Trehalulose-Rich Honey Composition

J Agric Food Chem. 2021 Sep 8;69(35):10292-10300. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.1c02859. Epub 2021 Aug 12.


The beneficial disaccharide, trehalulose, is a feature of stingless bee honey, while not dominant in any other foods. By experimentally feeding sugar solutions to confined colonies of the Australian stingless bee Tetragonula carbonaria, the origin of trehalulose has now been established. Complete conversion of fed sucrose was observed, by analysis of the honey, forming trehalulose (64-72%) with lesser erlose (18-23%), fructose (9-12%), and minor glucose detected. Remarkably, feeding solutions of glucose/fructose (1:1) mixtures did not result in trehalulose/erlose formation. Hence, stingless bees with natural access to floral nectar high in sucrose will produce honey high in trehalulose, with its associated beneficial properties. Any temptation to artificially increase trehalulose content by feeding sucrose to stingless bees would produce "fake" honey lacking key natural phytochemicals available to the foraging bee. The sucrose-fed fake and natural honey were however readily distinguished via isotope ratio mass spectrometry δ13C values, to combat such potential indirect adulteration.

Keywords: Meliponini honey; Tetragonula carbonaria; erlose; ion chromatography; isotope ratio mass spectrometry; sucrose.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Australia
  • Bees
  • Disaccharides
  • Honey*
  • Sugars


  • Disaccharides
  • Sugars
  • trehalulose