More Bees Are Choosing Sweets
Over Pollen, This Time in Europe
It seems that everyone and their nannies have a theory about bees these days. And while there’s concern about the steady decline of colonies throughout the world, and what it may represent to us, there’s also an alarming trend for making them poster bugs for the apocalypse.
To viruses, cellphone towers and autism, all possibly connected factors to such decline, according to self-appointed experts, add now the bees’ recently-acquired taste for leftovers from the production of sweets and syrups. It’d happened in Brooklyn, and now it’s happening in Alsace.
Then as now, they followed a predictable, if damaging, pattern: instead of heading to flower fields and fruit trees to pollinate them, a function they’ve been fulfilling for ages and that’s vital to our own subsistence on this planet, they’ve been taking detours to local artificial-making sweet factories.
Two years ago, bees cultivated in Brooklyn, New York, by independent apiaries, began producing a red, overly sweet, metallic-tasting type of honey that puzzled producers and consumers. As it turned out, they were raiding the dejects area of a local Maraschino cherries plant, instead of going for the green areas elsewhere in the borough.
In France, their blue and green colored honey was just traced back to a biogas plant processing waste from a M&M chocolate factory in the Alsace region. Even though the honey produced is not toxic, it’s not particularly pleasant tasting nor has any value in the market either.
The solution adopted in Europe mirrored the one taken in 2010 by Brooklyn producers and their neighboring food factories: to make sure that all waste is secured and well insulated from the bees’ now corrupted tasting buds. It also took some effort to ‘reeducate’ them to get back to the natural stuff.
But, naturally, not before some apprehension from those who track bees, for their environmental role and benefits, and hyper-ventilation from those who simply like to see signs of damnation of our species with every new disturbing trend. Since our lifestyle does grant a new one every other day, both groups are bound to be busy for years to come. And don’t even let us get started with reports about zombie bees.
THE HIDDEN THREATS
Although neither the hypothesis about the role of cellphone towers, and a connection with supposedly rising diagnosis of autism, have been proven to be factors in the worrisome rate of disappearing honeybee colonies in the world, known as colony collapse disorder, preliminary studies have indeed pointed to a possible viral-related cause.
A recent study published on Science and reported by The Guardian’s Damian Carrington, points at the Varroa destructor virus, which has a bloodsucking parasitic carrier, the varroa mite, as one definite culprit in the destruction of bees. It’s now one of the ‘most widely distributed and contagious insect viruses on the planet,’ according to the study.
Research has also determined that the Varroa came from Asia and took over the world in only 50 years. It was first detected in the U.K. in 1990 and it’s linked to the country’s loss of an estimated half of its entire bee population. Despite such scary data, though, research has also shown that the virus is not the sole responsible for the disorder.
Factors such as destruction of flora habitats, feeding grounds for bees, and undiscriminated use of pesticides on crops are equally part of the problem. Also, besides mites, some bacteria and fungi species are present in colonies, and their possible contribution to their destruction is yet to be fully understood.
Now that we’ve completed freaked you out with the possibility that we may be witnessing the beginning of a catastrophic event, the potential disappearance of bees from our natural world, read what we’ve written two years ago, when bees began producing their red honey. Sweet dreams.
Over the summer, beekeepers in Brooklyn noticed a scary, disturbing trend, one that wouldn’t look out of place in a nightmarish sci-fi novel: their bees were turning red. Worst, instead of honey, they began producing an overly sweet, metallic tasting red concoction. Keepers were at loss to explain the new phenomenon, but then again, their world is no stranger to weird occurrences.
A few years back, for example, bees started vanishing. As it does for at least a century, the U.S. food industry use them to pollinate crops all over the country. Beekeepers take them to faraway farms and they usually return on their own to their colonies.
Until they didn’t, and were presumed to have died somewhere along the way. The cumbersomely-named Colony Collapse Disorder astonished everyone and seriously threatened food production in North America.
Many possible causes were considered, including bad diet and radiation from cellphone towers, but scientists have zeroed in a more plausible combination of factors, such as viruses, bacteria and environmental issues. Now the industry is expected to recover, thank you very much.
But this new mystery was even more bizarre, and it apparently was confined to, you guessed, the Red Hook area. The small-scale and mostly not-for-profit community of Brooklyn keepers stood to lose years of well-crafted practices and high-quality honey production, absorbed by equally small local businesses and a loyal customer base.
Long story short: after a brief investigation, it turned out the bees were making, well, a beeline to a maraschino cherries factory in the area, and gorging in the high-fructose corn syrup used on their preparation. Even Red Dye No. 40 (no, not the proto-punk band), which is used in the maraschino cherry juice, was found in the bees’ inedible concoction.
Mystery solved, case closed, right? Not so fast. Apiarists may have a hard time weaning the bees off the stuff. Just like so many of their fellow working bees in the neighborhood, after getting used on their way home to stop by the friendly spot daily for a little dip, new fences and more screens may just not be enough to keep them out.
Who could’ve imagined that bees, such a symbol of organic lifestyle, so vital to food production, so highly intelligent, would fall prey to the same trappings of an easy and nauseating sweet fix we’re so used to indulge ourselves? Try the crackheads next door. And their bodies do change colors too.
Really, who said bees are supposed to fulfill the idealized vision we’ve assigned to them, an ideal so unattainable we ourselves can only achieve it when we are, well, high?
Red bees become translucent and glow in the early evenings. That’s beautiful, man. Remember the song? Birds do it, bees do it… Oh, that’s right, that has nothing to do with it…
Anyway, we feel for those beekeepers, we really do. But let’s not turn this into a “war on drugs.” Because, we all know what’s next: raids, deportations (most honeybees are immigrants, after all), TSA-scannings, another rally for tax cuts to the wealthy.
Just like the real thing, life imitates life. Perhaps there’s even potential for other businesses to be developed, grow and be nurtured by the bees’ new addiction. Medicinal syrup dispensaries for card-carrying red bees, anyone?
* They Do That Too