France is one of the largest producers of honey within the European Union, producing some 18,330 tonnes annually, according to the national farm agency FranceAgriMer.
And according to the Alsace region’s chamber of agriculture, there are approximately 2,400 beekeepers in northeastern France producing about 1,000 tons of honey per year.
Beekeepers around the town of Ribeauville in the Alsace region — the same region of northeastern France famous for its wines — recently complained that their hives began to produce strange colored blue and green honey instead of the regular amber colored honey.
The beekeepers witnessed bees returning to their hives carrying unidentified colorful substances that have turned their honey unnatural shades.
The beekeepers conducted their own investigation in the area and determined that the Agrivolar biogas plant around 4 kilometers away, was responsible for processing waste from a Mars factory producing bite-sized M&M’s candies in bright red, blue, green, yellow and brown shells.
The plant had been storing waste products in open containers and the bees could easily access the contents.
“We discovered the problem at the same time they did. We quickly put in place a procedure to stop it,” said Agrivalor manager Philippe Meinrad. Mars operates a chocolate factory near Strasbourg, around 62 miles away from the apiaries.
Meinrad said the plant would now store waste indoors and in tightly closed containers.
Reuters notes that the town, Ribeauville, situated on a scenic wine route southwest of Strasbourg, is best known for its vineyards. The winemakers live beside about 2,400 beekeepers in Alsace who tend some 35,000 colonies and produce about 1,000 tonnes of honey per year.
RT reports beekeepers in the area have already suffered high bee mortality due to the coldness of last winter, and the beekeepers are now wondering what to do with the colored honey.
Alain Frieh, president of the apiculturists’ union said the beekeepers are also concerned about what effects the chemicals will have on their bees and whether they will survive.
Additionally, because of the errant honey color, the beekeepers will face a decline in sales, since few customers will chance buying mysterious shades of blue and green honey.
“For me, it’s not honey. It’s not sellable,” Frieh says adding that the substance still tastes like honey.
As Reuters points out, bee numbers have been rapidly declining around the world in the last few years and the French government has banned a widely used pesticide, Cruiser OSR, that one study has linked to high mortality rates.
Bee colonies in Western countries have been declining at historically unprecedented levels, with massive hive die-offs in the U.S. and Québec.
Beekeepers have reported colonies collapsing accompanied by a “lack of dead bees”. The phenomenon in which disoriented honeybees die far from their hives has been coined “Colony collapse disorder” or (CCD).