Beekeepers in northeastern France found themselves in a sticky situation after bees from their hives began producing honey in shades of blue and green (pictured).
The colored honey could not be sold because it did not meet France's standards of honey production: It was not obtained from the nectar of plants and it deviates from the standard coloring of honey (nearly colorless to dark brown).
That's bad news for a region that produces a thousand tons of honey a year and has already had to cope with a high bee mortality rate and low honey production after a harsh winter. An investigation by beekeepers in the town of Ribeauville (map) uncovered the cause of the problem: Instead of collecting nectar from flowers, local bees were feeding on remnants of colored M&M candy shells, which were being processed by a biogas plant roughly 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) away.
The waste-processing plant discovered the problem at the same time the beekeepers did and quickly cleaned any outdoor or uncovered containers that M&M waste was stored in. The candy remains will now be stored in a covered hall.
The blue shade in the honeycomb above isn't the first case of bees producing colored "honey."
In 2010, the New York Times reported that bees kept in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook were producing red goo reminiscent of cough syrup. As it turns out, local bees were heading over to a nearby factory that produced maraschino cherries to eat instead of foraging in the gardens of their keepers.
"Honeybees will look for resources wherever they can find them," said Dino Martins, a Kenyan entomologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)
"Just like us humans, they have a sweet tooth as they seek out nectar for making their honey."