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For thousands of years, Australia’s Indigenous people have been using honey produced by native ant species as a traditional medicine to heal ailments, such as sore throats.
The compound is made by the Australian honeypot ant, a species mainly found in the country’s desert regions. To produce it, specialized worker ants – known as repletes – are stuffed with nectar and generate honey that swells their abdomens to the size of small, amber marbles.
The engorged insects then take a role as “living pantries” and regurgitate their honey during times of food scarcity.
When scientists studied this honey, they observed that it is highly effective in fighting the golden staph bacteria – a human pathogen that lives on the skin and can lead to life-threatening infections.
Researchers also found that it could fight some fungal species that are generally considered hard to kill, such as Aspergillus and Cryptococcus.
They suggested that honeypot ant’s honey contains a “unique ant-derived antimicrobial peptide” that gives it special properties compared with the product of honeybee species.
The research team hopes to find out more about the substance to develop novel antimicrobial treatments.
For those curious to try it, the ant’s honey is a bit similar to maple syrup in consistency, is not as sweet as bee’s honey, and has “a very slight tangy taste to it.”