Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Junk Food for Bees?

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Here's an interesting article that ran in today's New York Times. It seems that the beekeepers in the Red Hook area of Brooklyn were noticing that their bees were producing freaky candy-red honey. Was the local maraschino cherry factory to blame?

While this may seem silly, it does point to a deeper issue of beekeeping. Many, many beekeepers harvest every drop of their bees' honey. They then replace the bees' food with high-fructose corn syrup or other foods based on sugar, which in turn is stored in the honey combs. So, the honey you're buying at the supermarket may not be honey after all.

Years ago, honey was sold in its wax comb, so that consumers could see that the vendor wasn't selling a false product. Nowadays, even an "all natural" presentation won't tell a shopper if the honey was made from the nectar of flowers, or from a vat of corn syrup.

It's a crazy world we live in. We humans sure are good at making a mess of things.

7 comments:

ajt said...

I read that article this morning and (of course) immediately thought of you. I particularly like the bit at the end where the beekeeper says that the red bees are kind of weirdly beautiful, despite her clear dismay about their food source.

Christine said...

Wow, that honey is totally awesome, notwithstanding the creepy factor of wondering where our food really comes from, of course. But seriously, does it taste like maraschino cherries?

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Amen to that, we're excellent at messing up the balance of things. Our bees won't be here until April next year, but we've spent a lot of time considering hive management in general, and what our approach will be. Corn syrup is off the menu for sure. We just won't be 'honey pigs'. I'd rather let the bees keep their honey than feed them empty calories, it's just better for the bees. That red honey though...wow. It is interesting how honey changes color based on their diet.

km said...

That's horrifying!

I buy our honey in big quart jars from the Farmer's Market, where they tell me (and the color of the honey tells me) what the bees have been eating. But it never occurred to me that they might be feasting on HFCS.

I feel fairly confident about our local farmers being like-minded about our food sources, but I'll be asking about corn syrup next time.

Anonymous said...

Hey Lisa and Robb- I am sending this on wards to my Uncle Walter Gojmerac who was professor of Entomology at University of Wisconsin for many years, and wrote books on beekeeping. I'm eager to hear his feedback.

We were just in Brooklyn for the holidays- didnt see any bees, though.

Annalisa

Carol said...

I had no idea Beekeepers did that! How insane! No wonder we have bees dying everywhere. You have just given me another question to ask. Thanks for sharing!

Meredith said...

Lisa, you just educated me! I was not aware that all the honey is taken away from the poor bees and replaced. I'd been picturing it more like what I saw my uncle do when I was a child -- only taking a part at certain seasons. And I used to love chewing on the fresh comb. We jokingly called it "country chewing gum." :)

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