bees in the news urban beekeeping

Brooklyn bees pig-out on maraschino cherry syrup

In case you missed the story, urban beekeepers in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, New York were shocked when their bees started sporting a faint red glow as they returned home from foraging trips. Further investigation showed that their hives contained frames of “honey” the color of cough syrup.

Samples of the material were sent to a laboratory in late November. Testing showed that the honey was laced with red dye no. 40 and high-fructose corn syrup—the materials used to produce the bright red cocktail cherries.

It turns out that a company called Dell’s Maraschino Cherries Company in Red Hook has vats of cherries soaking in the red juice. It is not clear if the bees were gaining access to the vats or if they were picking up the juice from overflow or runoff. But the company owner expressed concern about the high number of bees congregating near his facility and hired a local beekeeper to come up with a solution to the problem.

Meanwhile, area beekeepers were disappointed not only that their honey crops were ruined but that their bees have a taste for junk food. Most of the beekeepers interviewed were surprised that their bees would go out of their way to collect the syrup when plenty of floral sources were available much closer to home.

Regardless of the disruption, one beekeeper commented that the bees were beautiful in the evening light, their honey stomachs glowing with a red—almost florescent—glow. Hmm. It seems that urban beekeeping comes with its own set of urban problems—but who would have thunk it?



  • Hmmmmm, very interesting Rusty.
    I’m curious as to why the bee’s were so ‘tempted’ as well. Color? Smell? Happy hour?
    Will bees typically search out other ‘sweeter’ sources of food when floral sources are easily available?

  • Hi Micah,

    You know, bees will collect honey if you leave it out for them and they will steal it from other hives if they get the chance. I think that syrup is already thick enough that they don’t have to spend much time or energy “dehydrating” it to the proper consistency. Since most of the dehydrating is already done, it’s almost like finding honey. At least, that’s my theory. It’s easier to eat processed food than buy the raw ingredients and prepare something, right? I can’t see why bees think any differently.

  • Yes, similarly, it’s been shown that bees go after nectar on the basis of taste rather than nutritive content. So they just like them some old fashioned maraschino cherry sauce…

  • The plant in question was recently busted for a large scale marijuana grow. Could the bees been attracted to the sweet smell of growing marijuana?

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