Hitchhikers in Honey: An investigation of the inhibitory mechanisms of bacteria found in honey


  • Emma Letcher The New School
  • Davida S. Smyth The New School




honeybee, antimicrobial, microbes, raw honey, staphylococcus aureus, inhibitory, gram positive bacteria


Honey has a stable physiochemical composition that contributes to its long shelf life and has been noted as an antimicrobial substance for centuries. Although it is common knowledge that honey affords some antimicrobial properties, the specific mechanisms behind this remain elusive. This paper hypothesizes that the microorganisms in certain raw honeys contribute towards their antimicrobial properties. In our study, we analyzed several raw and processed honey samples to determine their microbial constituents. The antimicrobial potential of the isolated microbes was tested using several clinically relevant bacteria including Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Of the tested honeys, Manuka (New Zealand) and Wildflower honey (Tennessee, USA) contained microorganisms exhibiting antimicrobial activity. All the isolated colonies grew on MacConkey and Mannitol agar and generated bands for the 16S rRNA gene implying that they were bacteria. This paper concludes that bacteria isolated from honey could be a new area of research within the topic of antimicrobial honey samples. 


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Author Biographies

Emma Letcher, The New School

Emma received her BA from Eugene Lang College in anthropology and interdisciplinary science. With a strong focus on community and social justice, she seeks to bring the natural and social sciences together in novel academic research. Based on her work with displaced Syrians she co-authored a report based on the findings of the Manufacturing Landscapes: The Politics and Practices of the Jordan Refugee Compact. Emma will complete her senior thesis focused the healthcare support systems for those living with dementia in Malta, interviewing government officials, researchers at the university, and those working locally in the elderly home. Most recently she has been a part of a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience in Smyth Labs at the New School, focusing on bacteria that grows in honey and the ways bees impact communities in New York City. Her research always aligns with her ideals of promoting planetary health.

Davida S. Smyth, The New School

Davida S. Smyth holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Dublin, Trinity College, Ireland and completed her postdoctoral training at New York Medical College, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and New York University. She has served as Associate Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Natural Sciences in Mercy College’s School of Health and Natural Sciences, where she taught environmental science, introductory biology, microbiology, and genetics and developed the first CURE course “Microbiology of Urban Spaces“. Previously, she has held Assistant Research Scientist status in the lab of Professor Richard Novick at NYU Langone Medical Center and was an Adjunct Lecturer for the online Masters in Bioinformatics program at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Prior to joining Mercy, Dr. Smyth was Assistant Professor of Biology at New York City College of Technology (NYCCT) where she coordinated the microbiology course, established and ran the internship course for biomedical informatics, and acted as program coordinator for biomedical informatics (in 2015).



How to Cite

Letcher, E., & Smyth, D. S. (2019). Hitchhikers in Honey: An investigation of the inhibitory mechanisms of bacteria found in honey. Journal of Student Research, 8(2). https://doi.org/10.47611/jsr.v8i2.795



Research Articles