French Bees Produce Blue Honey

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Vincent Kessler/Reuters

French apiarist Andre Frieh holds a sample of normal honey (right) besides a blue colored one (left) at his home in Ribeauville near Colmar, Eastern France, October 5, 2012.

Mars Incorporated has proclaimed that “Chocolate is better in color” with its M&Ms. But French beekeepers may beg to differ on that.

Since August, beekeepers near the town of Ribeauville, in the northeastern region of Alsace, have been reporting their bees are producing blue and green honey, according to Reuters. And they’ve traced the cause back to a biogas plant that processes waste from an M&Ms factory.

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Bees are apparently picking up vibrantly colored, sugary waste from the plant, operated by the company Agrivalor some 2.5 miles away from their apiaries. A statement from Agrivalor that appeared in the French newspaper Le Monde said the company would clean its containers and store waste in airtight containers to prevent bees from reaching it.

“We quickly put in place a procedure to stop it,” Philippe Meinrad, co-manager of Agrivalor, told Reuters.

France generates 18,330 tons of honey per year, making it one of the largest honey producers in the European Union. In Alsace alone, about 2,400 beekeepers manage 35,000 colonies, which produce about 1,000 tons of the stuff per year. However, France hasn’t been spared by the largely unexplained decrease in the world bee population in recent years, Reuters reported.

Gill Maclean, a spokesperson for the British Beekeepers’ Association, told the BBC that the harsh winter of 2011-2012 may have affected bees’ ability to forage. This could be a reason why the bees sought out the alternate sugar.

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

Rest assured: Consumers won’t see blue honey on store shelves anytime soon. Alain Frieh, president of the apiculturists’ union, told Reuters the only similarity between regular honey and their bees’ M&M-tainted byproducts might be taste.

“For me, it’s not honey,” Frieh told Reuters. “It’s not sellable.”

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