Our goal as a team of professional farmers and researchers is to examine and promote Monarda spp. as a new crop or accessory planting to affect bee health in situ and also produce a hive product and field crop that can be processed in a number of ways either as honey; a dried herb (flowers and leaves), or as an extracted product containing the volatile compounds.
Herbal compounds have gained interest both by farmers and researchers as the quest for finding and propagating healthy forage for livestock and value added products increases. Through advanced testing and analysis, science is now able to better support the observational properties that land stewards have been noticing and recording for a variety of wild and cultivated plant species. Interest in finding and promoting herbal compounds for immune system support and for nutritional forage is important for organic and sustainable agricultural pursuits and markets.
Extracts of oregano (Origanum vulgare) has been shown to positively affect animal health and production in such varied organisms as poultry (Giannenas, et al. 2010), fish (Zheng, 2009), and rabbits (Botsoglou, et al. 2004), and was shown to attenuate or eliminate Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus epidermidis biofilms in vitro (Nostro, et al. 2007). The majority of this bactericidal effect is attributed to carvacrol and thymol, two main constituents in the essential oil of oregano. As a result, products have been developed that make use of these properties, and are currently mostly produced in Europe (RopaPharm International, the Netherlands and RostoFarm, Germany).
Monarada fistulosa var. menthifolia, is a widespread but highly variable North American native plant (alternately known as bee-balm, wild bergamot, or oregano de la sierra) possesses a similar chemical profile to oregano including p-cymene, carvacrol, thymol, α-pinene, β-pinene, sabinene hydrate, α-terpinene, citronellyl acetate, and β-caryophyllene (Zamureenko, et al. 1989). It is also a known honey plant (melliferous). Specific to bee health, thymol has been used to successfully control varroa mites and prevent fermentation and the growth of mold in bee colonies (Calderone, 1999; Floris, 2004).