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Scientists have discovered that teas and herbs from the grocery store are teeming with insect DNA, Smithsonian Magazine reported.
In their paper, lead author Henrik Krehenwinkel and his team purchased herbs and teas from different brands to make sure that each product originated from different parts of the world.
They then used environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis to isolate the arthropod genes in the dried leaves, and found traces of more than 1,200 different bug species from just four plants: Chamomile, mint, tea, and parsley.
The team noted that some of the insects couldn’t be matched to known species, adding that further research is needed on the more obscure and understudied groups.
Krehenwinkel said that the study is aimed at understanding how bugs and plants interact with each other.
“There’s very, very specific interactions and very cryptic interactions of which we know very little because no one has basically put in the effort of studying this before,” said Krehenwinkel.
Researchers added that the eDNA method can help track crop pests and other harmful species to prevent their spread. It could also help collect insect data around the world to aid in conservation efforts.
The authors also hope to utilize their approach to pique children’s interest in ecology and conservation by giving them a hands-on opportunity to participate in ongoing research.
“Just give a little kit to collect plants to a child and then they can collect flowers, and basically, we can process those flowers and reconstruct those interactions,” Krehenwinkel said.