Alsace blue honey traced to M&M factory

Beekeepers producing blue and green honey in the Alsace region have traced the cause of the problem to an unlikely source - a local M&M factory.

Honey producers in the town of Ribeauvillé had noticed their bees carrying blue, green and brown-coloured materials back to the hives since the beginning of August. Soon after honey of the same blue and green colours came from their hives.

The local union of beekeepers started an investigation of the problem after about 12 producers in the area reported the same problem.

After three weeks they were lead to a biogas plant 4km away, who had discovered a bee hive above a vat containing a product exactly the same colour as the honey produced.

A letter from the head of the Agrivalor biogas plant, Philippe Meinrad, to the mayor of Ribeauvillé sent in April this year eventually revealed the plant had been processing waste materials from a nearby Mars factory making M&Ms.

Agrivalor says it is not making efforts to clean its site in order to prevent a similar incident happening again.

"We discovered the problem at the same time they did. We quickly put in place a procedure to stop it," Meinrad told newsagency Reuters.

As of yet, Mars have made no comment.

While the beekeepers may have got to the bottom of the mysterious colour of their honey, the unsellable produce comes after a year of problems – after a harsh winter they encountered a high bee mortality rate, and pesticides had been affecting their hives.

Head of the beekeepers’ union, Alain Frieh said in an interview with Reuters: “For me, it's not honey. It's not sellable.”

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Bad weather leads to ‘catastrophic’ honey harvest for French beekeepers

Alarmed French beekeepers and farming groups warned on Tuesday of a "catastrophic" honey harvest this year due to adverse weather.

Bad weather leads to 'catastrophic' honey harvest for French beekeepers
French beekeepers have harvested very little honey so far this year. Photo: AFP
“For honey producers the season risks being catastrophic. Bees are collecting nothing!” French farming union MODEF said in a statement. 
“In the hives, there is nothing to eat, beekeepers are having to feed them with syrup because they risk dying from hunger,” added the union, which represents many small farms in honey-producing regions.
Henri Clement, secretary-general for the National Union of French Beekeepers (UNAF), said that by June his members had normally harvested 40-50 percent of their annual output, but they had collected very little so far.
He blamed the weather after a highly changeable winter which saw frost in many regions damage acacia trees, which bees like, followed by a rainy spring.
Photo: AFP
“We've had catastrophic weather conditions,” Clement said. “We've been alarmed for a while now about the impact of climate change which is having a major impact on production.”
The onset of intense summer heat in France, which could lead to record temperatures being set this week for the month of June, is another source of worry.
“We're waiting to see because the season could recover, but the heatwave that is coming could really hit harvests,” Clement added.
In recent years, bee populations around the world have been dying off from “colony collapse disorder”, a mysterious scourge blamed on mites, pesticides, virus, fungus, or some combination of these factors.
The insects are vital for growing the world's food as they help fertilise crops by transferring pollen from male to female flowers.
The European Union is gradually restricting the use of pesticides that are known to be harmful to bees and France introduced even stricter rules in August last year, leading to complaints from some farmers' groups.
The pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, are based on the chemical structure of nicotine, and attack the central nervous system of insects.
Bees make honey by sucking out nectar from flowers which they then transfer by mouth to other bees inside the hive.
The sugary golden liquid is used as a food store by the colony.