Honeybees do not have the most discriminating taste. If it is sugary, they will eat it.
We’ve known that about American honeybees since 2010, when beekeepers got weirded out by the strange red color in batches of Brooklyn honey and traced it back to Dell’s Maraschino Cherries, a Brooklyn business in possession of vats of cherry syrup. The bees were sucking down that manufactured goodness like a 5-year-old with a Shirley Temple in both hands and the dye was turning their honey red.
Now, we know that French bees don’t have much better taste. According to Reuters, bees were making batches of blue and green honey after feasting on “residue from containers of M&M’s candy processed at a nearby biogas plant.” Delicious? Yes. Classy? No. At least, not enough for French beekeepers. Reuters:
As for the M&M’s-infused honey, union head Frieh said it might taste like honey, but there the comparison stopped.
“For me, it’s not honey. It’s not sellable.”
This isn’t just French snobbery. As Grist has previously reported, honey derived from processed sugar actually doesn’t taste quite as good as the stuff made the old-fashioned way. Sarah Goodyear tasted the Brooklyn-based red honey and reported:
In my notes I said it had a “slightly off taste, musty, bitter.” That was the red honey of Red Hook, from Chitalkar’s hives.
To be fair, the floral notes of good local honey were also present. It was not “terrible,” by any means. But it’s clear to me after our experiment that even if the maraschino cherry syrup lends a lovely warm hue, something about the stuff — whether it’s the corn syrup or the artificial coloring — results in a noticeable difference in quality.
It’s probably a bit of a blow for the French to realize that their bees don’t have discerning taste. (Actually, quite the opposite — the bees were traveling more than 60 miles for this crap.) But they can console themselves with the fact that American humans don’t, so they can still unload their discolored product. If the French beekeepers have any business sense, we’ll be seeing musty blue honey on the shelves within the year.
Get Grist in your inbox