Keeping Brooklyn's Bees Out Of The Red Dye No. 40

Remember those bees in Brooklyn that were pumping out a bright red honey thanks to the presence of a nearby maraschino cherry factory (and its vast amounts of super-sweet HFCS colored with Red Dye No. 40)? Well that factory is now working with bee experts to figure out a way to keep the buzzers out of the syrup without calling the exterminator.

Andrew Coté, president of the New York City Beekeepers Association, and Vivian Wang, a beekeeper and advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council, paid a visit to the cherry factory in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood to suss out where the bees were feasting and what could be done about it.

It looks like the bees are grabbing a bite to eat during a short stretch in the production cycle when large vats of marinating cherries are moved from one warehouse to another.

The bees aren’t contaminating the product, but those few seconds are enough to tip the stingers off to the presence of something sweet.

“It doesn’t take much,” Wang said. “Once one forager finds a source like that, they’re back at the hive waggling to let all of their fellow workers know about it.”

The two experts tell OnEarth.org that there are some simple solutions to the problem:

Draping the syrup bins in heavy, fabric sheets soaked in vinegar might work, Coté said.The vinegar would help mask the syrup without harming either the bees or the cherries. Other possible strategies might include building wooden and mesh “lockers” on wheels to transport the bins and placing feeders full of sugar syrup on the factory’s roof to distract the bees.

Wang said she’s glad the factory owner is looking into bee-friendly options. “I know a lot of factory owners would have just called an exterminator,” she said, “but what we’re doing now could be a great case study for handling things the right way.”

Helping Brooklyn’s Red Stingers Get Off the Juice [OnEarth.org]