Red honey, caused by red dye #40 has been contaminating bee colonies in Utah and Washington causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. William Burnett, Utah County bee inspector said, “It may be possible the red honey contained more lead than its traditional counterpart.”

The cause of the red honey was one specific beekeeper open-feeding bees crushed red hard candy mixed with water. 

Open feeding is a process in which bee keepers feed their bees out of an open container, like a 55 gallon drum or gallon buckets with holes drilled into the sides. Traditionally this type of feeding is done during the colder months when flowers are not blooming but bees still need food. Feeding bees with sugar or any other product other than flowers is illegal in Utah.

Hives from four counties have turned up red honey.

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The candy feed has been fed to the bees throughout the summer months where flowers are available. Red honey has been found in July and August. 

Burnett said he would be resigning his post due to exhaustion over this situation. 

The red honey  is reported to taste awful – like cough syrup.

The honey looks unappetizing.

Larry Lewis, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food has been advising beekeepers to keep any red honey separate from regular honey, “Because this red honey might not be in fact honey.”

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Owner of 3 Bee Honey, Chris Spencer said, “The dye’s actually in the genetic material, which it shouldn’t be.”

This isn’t the first time red honey has appeared on the horizon. Bees in New York were producing red honey back in 2010. The cause was a local maraschino cherry manufacturing plant where bees were feeding from run off at the factory.

David Selig, a hobbyist Brooklyn beekeeper said the bees, “Glow red in the evenings. They were slightly fluorescent.”


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