French Beekeepers Buzzing Over Blue Honey
October 5, 2012

French Beekeepers Buzzing Over Blue Honey

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

French beekeepers are seeing red after learning that M&M´s waste could be making their honeybees produce honey in shades of blues and greens. The phenomenon was first noticed by beekeepers in August around the town of Ribeauville, France; they observed the bees returning to their hives carrying strange colorful substances that have turned their naturally golden sweet wax into a palette of unnatural hues.

The northeastern region of Alsace, home to a biogas plant where the M&M waste was stored, is also home to some 2,400 beekeepers operating 35,000 colonies that produce in the neighborhood of 1,000 tons of honey annually, according to the Alsace chamber of commerce.

France is one of the largest producers of honey in the European Union, producing some 19,000 tons per year, according to a recent audit conducted for national farm agency FranceAgriMer.

The biogas plant operator, after learning the M&M waste was the potential cause for the mash-up of colorful honey, which is now unsellable, made efforts to contain the waste to keep the situation from recurring.

“We discovered the problem at the same time [the beekeepers] did. We quickly put in place a procedure to stop it,” Philippe Meinrad, a spokesman from Agrivalor, the company operating the biogas plant, told Reuters' Patrick Genthon.

The company said it would clean out the containers and store all incoming waste in airtight containers and process it promptly to avoid another situation, according to a statement published in the Le Monde newspaper.

The M&M waste has affected only a small number of beekeepers in the region--about a dozen or so--but the implications could be far-reaching. Already dealing with bee mortality rates that are through the roof, the new unsellable honey adds to already dwindling honey supplies due to colony collapse disorder (CCD) and a previously harsh winter, according to the president of the apiculturists´ union.

Pesticides have also played a role in some honeybee decline across the EU and abroad. The French government has placed a ban on a widely used pesticide, Cruiser OSR, after a recent study has linked it to high mortality rates in bee colonies.

Gill Maclean, a spokesperson for the British Beekeepers´ Association, said the harsh winter along with an unseasonably rainy summer has kept bees from foraging as much as they normally do, forcing beekeepers to step in and offer sugar syrup to their colonies.

“Bees are clever enough to know where the best sources of sugar are, if there are no others available,” she said.

Mars, the makers of the colorful M&Ms candy, operates a plant about 60 miles from the region where the honeybee hoedown has been ongoing.