Bees from a section of Alsace, France, are producing some buzz around the world — not for their sound, but for the unusual color of their honey. Instead of the normal golden yellow, the bees near the town of Ribeauville are generating honey in shades of blue, brown and green, according to a report from Reuters.
Apparently the tainted honey tastes fine, but apiarists say the unusual colors make it unsellable. About 2,400 beekeepers live in Alsace. The region produces 1,000 metric tonnes of honey every year. About a dozen beekeepers in Ribeauville have been affected by the coloring problem.
What on earth could be causing this hue-shifting change? Well, beekeepers have been investigating and now they're pointing at a nearby biogas plant that is processing the waste from a factory that makes M&M candies.
Mars, Inc., whose Strasbourg chocolate factory makes M&Ms more than 60 miles away from Ribeauville, had no comment.
But the company that operates the biogas plant says they have put new procedures in place to clean containers and store incoming waste indoors to prevent hungry bees from dining on the sugary goodness.
The discolored honey may or may not disappear now that these new processes are being used, but the damage has already been done to the Ribeauville apiarists. Not only do they have less honey to sell, they were already facing unusually high bee mortality rates due to last year's difficult winter conditions. Bee populations are down throughout France, which in June banned a Swiss pesticide called Cruiser OSR, which scientists have suggested may be one of the causes of the high bee mortality rate.
Related bee story on MNN:
- Bee deaths may signal wider pollination threat
- Mites, virus team up to wipe out bee hives
- 5 ways to help our disappearing bees