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Red Hook’s Mystery Bees

December 2, 2010

Here’s a stumper:

(c) JayKeaton

What might cause honey to turn bright (and I mean really bright) red?

Answer? Apparently maraschino cherry juice. A recent article in the NYT (complete with pictures) told the story of some urban beekeepers in Brooklyn who’s bees apparently ignored all of the natural good stuff around for them to eat (yes, in Brooklyn), and instead hiked over to Governors Island to feast on maraschino cherry juice made at a local factory. When the honey was tested, high levels of Red Dye No. 40 (the same stuff in the cherries) were found (yuck!). And even the bees themselves were showing up red.

This story highlights some of the complexities of producing food in urban areas – we’ve already discussed lead here at OUJ, for example. Of course, rural food production has its own set of issues, but there do seem to be some problems unique to cities. As more people jump on the urban farming bandwagon, I’m sure we’ll be hearing more stories like this — and more creative and practical solutions (as the factory obviously doesn’t want the bees around, either, perhaps the solution could be as easy as putting up some bee-proof screens, as one beekeeper pointed out).

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