Cockroaches, spiders, flies: these are just some of the thousands of arthropods – a large group of insects – whose traces can be found in our tea bags. This is reported by a new scientific study published in the journal Biology Letters.
To reach these conclusions, the authors of the study used a very specific approach that has proven itself in the monitoring of arthropods and which consists of extracting environmental DNA (eDNA) from samples. Here, the scientists focused on samples of dried tea leaves and herbs found in German shops.
They identified on barely 40 samples the traces of 3,264 invertebrates, representing approximately 1,200 different species. Among them, we find butterflies, cockroaches or even beetles, which have left behind them pieces of exoskeleton or various secretions filled with DNA.
“What really surprised me was the great diversity we detected. [ …] We have found in green tea up to 400 species of insects in a single tea bag.told The Scientist Henrik Krehenwinkel, a geneticist at the University of Trier, Germany.
A method of the future
The study is not only interesting to understand what is going on in your mug filled with hot tea. It also shows how environmental DNA is a wealth of valuable information, while making dried plant materials a perfect medium for monitoring arthropods.
This opens many doors, details ScienceAlert: reading the leaves could provide vital information in the future, in the detection of agricultural pests in particular, but also in the geographical tracing of imported plants.
Even better, scientists hope to one day use this method to analyze old plant collections and herbaria from ancient times, which can be found in museums. A way to trace the evolution of multiple insect communities through the ages.