How bee-zarre ! French bees produce blue and green honey

It has been a bad year for European beekeepers. As if last year’s particularly cruel winter wasn’t enough, the numerous problems with pesticides that followed did nothing to boost the morale within the apiaries.

And in eastern France, in the region of Ribeauvillé, the problems have only worsened. Since the beginning of August, reports have been swarming in with the strange news that the golden honey of the Alsacian bees has been looking somewhat more colourful of late. As many as twelve beekeepers in the region have been shocked to find that their bees have been returning to the hive carrying mysterious-looking pollen which has been turning their honey vibrant shades of blue and green.

Truly bee-zarre. Bee-autiful, some might say. But this is more than just a matter of aesthetics, and the tasty-looking product comes with a sting in its tail. The bees have been depositing the mystery product in such quantities that the queens have stopped producing eggs; all the more disastrous as summer is the time when the queen lays ‘winter bees’, which maintain the upkeep of the hive throughout the cold season. The possibility of a bee colony collapse is an increasing threat.

An enquiry into the strange goings-on cultivated some even stranger results. We know that bees have a sweet tooth, but it seems that their tastes have moved from honey…to candy. Beekeepers discovered that their bees have been snacking at a biogas plant 2.5 miles away, which produces energy using biodegradable organic products and out-of-date, perished or unsold food products. Recently this particular plant has been processing waste from a nearby Mars plant which produces M&Ms, those colourful chocolates we all know and love.

Whilst the problem has been dealt with promptly, and the biogas company has cleaned its containers and sworn to store all incoming waste in a covered hall, the honey has been deemed unsellable, leaving the future of the Alsacian apiaries uncertain. This is just one in a series of problems which have left bee numbers across Europe dwindling. We will have to wait until the spring to see how the bees who dined at the biogas plant will fare, but until then, we can only hope that the effects will not be long-lasting.

Sources include: Le Monde, The Mirror

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