Honey derives its color and flavor from the nectar that the bees collect. For example, nectar from clover has a light golden color and the honey has a “clover” flavor. Nectar from tulip poplar is much darker and has a strong taste of “Tulip Poplar”. In times when nectar sources are too few, beekeepers may enhance the nutrition of their bee colony by feeding sugar solutions. Sugar solution does not add substantially to the color or flavor of the honey. These properties of honey are familiar to beekeepers.
Beekeepers in Ribeauville, France were shocked this summer when they opened their hives and found honey of brilliant green and blue, colors not typically found in nature. To investigate, the beekeepers followed the bees to their foraging site. They found that their bees were flying to a new type of plant, a factory that makes M&Ms candies. The bees were foraging on the sugary coating for the M&Ms, which contains dyes that give M&Ms their brilliant colors. The French, who maintain purity standards for their honey, have deemed the dye-contaminated honey, unsellable. The plant managers are taking measures to exclude the bees from the dye-containing sugar solutions.