Every time I read that honey bees are forced to eat refined sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, I cringe. Not because I think they should eat it, but because there is no “force” required. Bees just love the sweet stuff.
A report about bees eating the wrong thing came from Utah earlier this month. A commercial beekeeper, in an effort to keep down costs, purchased crushed candy canes in bulk and open-fed them to his bees. Now, open-feeding is not force-feeding. The beekeeper put the stuff outside his hives and let the bees decide if they wanted to eat it or not.
Unfortunately, the bees loved it. Not only his bees but bees from a four-county area gorged on the mixture of water and candy canes, producing bright red honey all across northern Utah, aka “The Beehive State.”
The beekeeper should have known better because this kind of incident happens all the time. In recent years, red honey appeared in Brooklyn, NY when bees got into the effluent of a maraschino cherry factory. Later, blue and green honey surfaced in France when bees got into waste products from an M&Ms factory. And we’ve all heard stories of bees making red honey from hummingbird feeders.
Back in Utah, the affected beekeepers are hopping mad—and they have a right to be. The tainted honey cannot be sold as honey because, according to the Utah Department of Agriculture, honey must come from a floral source. Beekeepers are reporting thousands of dollars in lost sales.
The upside of all this is that the beekeeper responsible for the mess has set up a honey exchange. Beekeepers can bring in their red honey and exchange it for a comparable amount of “regular” honey. The exchange is being coordinated by the Wasatch Beekeepers Association.