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Why are French bees producing colored honey?
Bees in one French town are crafting honey in startling shades of blue and green, and beekeepers are blaming a nearby candy plant
French apiarist Andre Frieh holds up samples of honey: The bright blue sample is believed to have been contaminated by a plant involved in candy production in Ribeauville, France.
French apiarist Andre Frieh holds up samples of honey: The bright blue sample is believed to have been contaminated by a plant involved in candy production in Ribeauville, France.
REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
T

he story: Beekeepers in Ribeauville, a small town in France's Alsace region, were baffled when they discovered that their bees were producing honey in unnatural shades of green and blue. When apiarists spotted the bees carrying a colorful substance back to their hives, they traced it to a nearby bio-gas plant that processes waste from an M&Ms factory. The theory: The bees opted to collect the sugary waste instead of sourcing pollen from flowering plants because it's easier. The British Beekeepers Association says that the harsh winter of 2011-12 may have affected the bees' ability to forage, and led them to seek out alternate sources of sugar.

The fallout: While the blue honey is pretty to look at, beekeepers are seeing red, and have deemed it unusable — a serious blow for French apiarists who generate 18,330 tons of honey per year. "For me, it's not honey," said Alain Frieh, the president of the apiculturists' union. "It's not sellable." Agrivalor, the company that operates the biogas plant, says it's working to address the problem by cleaning containers and being more vigilant about covering waste storage bins.

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