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Brooklyn bees pig-out on maraschino cherry syrup

Bees in Brooklyn, NY made "honey" from Maraschino cherry syrup. Deposit Photos

Inside: During a nectar dearth, bees in Brooklyn, NY discovered waste Maraschino cherry syrup useful for making bright red “honey.”

In case you missed the story, urban beekeepers in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, New York discovered their honey bees sported 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.

Beekeepers sent samples of the material to a laboratory in late November. Testing showed the honey contained red dye no. 40 and high-fructose corn syrup. Bright red cocktail cherries contain both.

It turns out that a company called Dell’s Maraschino Cherries Company in Red Hook had vats of cherries soaking in the red juice. But they didn’t know if the bees were accessing the vats or if they were picking up the cherry syrup from overflow or runoff. However, the company owner expressed concern about the high number of bees congregating near his facility. In an effort to get rid of them, he hired a local beekeeper to come up with a solution.

Meanwhile, area beekeepers expressed disappointment. Not only were their honey crops ruined, but they learned their bees have a taste for junk food. Most of the beekeepers interviewed expressed surprise that their bees would 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?

Cherry syrup may make colorful honey, but so do a few other things. Don’t miss tales of purple honey, glowing aqua-green honey, and even candy cane honey.

Honey Bee Suite


  • 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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