Monday, July 9, 2012

M&M-Coloured Honey, Anyone?

Photo courtesy: © Ramon Gonzalez

French bees in the Alsace region of France have acquired a bad snacking habit, and it’s tainting their honey.

The autumn honey harvest in the Alsace region of France is hitting a major setback. ABC News reports that in the northeastern region of France, home to 2,400 beekeepers and 35,000 colonies that produce nearly 1,000 tons of honey per year, some hives are producing honey in bizarre shades of green and blue.

For weeks the beekeepers of the town of Ribeauville have been mystified as to why honey is being produced in such unusual colors. The town’s Union of Beekeepers believes they’ve found the culprit and they’re pointing the finger at M&M's.

It seems there’s a biogas plant in the area that processes waste from a Mars plant that produces M&M's, which--as we know--come in a variety of colors, including blue and green.

Philippe Meinrad, a spokesman for Agrivalor, the company operating the biogas plant, told Reuters that they “discovered the problem at the same time [the beekeepers] did… [and] quickly put in place a procedure to stop it.”

The plant in question is promising to take measures to prevent the bees from getting into the waste in the future. But that probably won’t make beekeepers that have had their honey harvest ruined feel any better about their loss this season.

According to the French newspaper Le Monde, the company said it will clean out the containers and store the waste in airtight containers, out of reach of hungry bees. (Le Monde page is in French. Translation feature may be needed.) Mars did not respond to ABC News when asked for comment.

According to Le Monde, the colorful honey is not marketable and will not hit shelves this season. This year has already been disastrous for beekeepers from New Jersey to Britain and France’s honey blues are not expected to sweeten year-end profits.

David Selig of Red Hook, Brooklyn, a restaurant owner and amateur beekeeper, was disappointed that instead of honey his bees had produced a red concoction more reminiscent of maraschino cherries or of cough syrup. Photo courtesy:

As you may remember, a similar thing happened here in the U.S. in 2010 when Brooklyn bees were finding their way into the waste of a plant that produces maraschino cherries and creating a red honey that alarmed beekeepers.

Fears have been expressed that the bees’ feasting on the stuff could have unforeseeable health effects on the hives. After all, a study diet of M&Ms is no good for anyone or anything AND this is the waste product - the stuff they don't want.

One of the honeycombs in Mr. Selig's hive. Photo courtesy:

But Mr. Selig said there was something extraordinary, too, about those corn-syrup-happy bees that came flying back this summer.

“When the sun is a bit down, they glow red in the evenings,” he said. “They were slightly fluorescent. And it was beautiful.”

Bees sure do love their junk food. Keep this in mind if you want to keep bees in your backyard and you live in an area where sugary snacks and drinks are produced.

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