The Rogue Honeybees are like tiny CSI investigators. Buzzing around the Hopyard they gather evidence – better known as pollen and nectar – from thousands of blooms.
Depending on the season, they forage at our Big Leaf Maples, apple and walnut trees, pumpkin flowers, wild blackberries, raspberries, hazelnuts, cherries or one of the gazillions of wildflowers that pop up from spring through fall.
The honey produced by the Rogue Honeybees is like a fingerprint filled with clues about where the bees were during the season and what they were eating. And like a lot of other fingerprints, investigators are using them to solve crimes.
Texas A&M Professor Vaughn Bryant is a melissopalynologist, a scientist who studies pollen in bee products. By studying the pollen particles in honey he can tell you the origin – or terroir – of where they honey was produced.
So what kind of crimes does he solve? Counterfeit honey. Just like beer, the terroir of honey has a huge impact on its flavor and quality. Pure Manuka honey from New Zealand sells for more than $2.50 per ounce, while your standard supermarket wildflower honey is about 8 times cheaper. Honey scammers can make a lot money selling their knock offs to unsuspecting consumers.
Bryant studies hundreds of honey samples year to determine their true origin. His customers include exporters, importers and state agencies.
Sometimes the police call him, too. Bryant’s studies of pollen found in dirt and human remains have helped solve far more serious crimes such as poaching and murder.