Wednesday, December 22, 2010


We don't need no stinkin' maraschinos.

Well, maybe you do, especially if you are a fan of Rob Roys, Manhattans, Shirley Temples, ice cream sundaes, root beer floats, fruitcakes, or patriotism. America. Fuck yeah.

So you and I, we need maraschino cherries. What we don't need is a factory to make them for us, not when we can make a better product at home, free of artificial food dyes, high fructose corn syrup, red bees, or communism.

There are a lot of recipes for homemade maraschino cherries on the internet, and I've wanted to try them for a while. Our bee's run-in with the local maraschino factory gave me the push to get off my butt and do it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Mystery of the Red Honey, Part 3

So into the mail the samples went, off to a state food lab by way of Paul Cappy, the state apiculturalist. Paul has been extremely helpful in figuring out our problems and always managed to find the silver lining. The first time I mentioned the possibility that the source of the contamination was the maraschino cherry factory, he immediately suggested that we mix the stuff into our Manhattans. He may have overestimated how many Manhattans I can consume safely, but at a time when everyone involved was tired and worried about the health of our bees, his unwavering view of the upside cheered us up. He also shared many stories about other beekeepers who had experienced similar problems—I had heard some of them before, but had always taken them to be the stuff of legends.

I guess I know better now.

In order of distance from the factory.  Samples taken from hives closest to the factory on the left.
Image Copyright, 2010

Eventually, the results came back. Positive for red #40, the food-safe dye (FD&C Red 40) used to colour cherries at the factory. The proverbial last nail in the coffin, but as I've mentioned, we were already pretty positive that the factory was the source. With that last scrap of evidence in hand, we drafted a letter and made moves to contact Mr. Mondella, the owner of the factory. Things got complicated before we could deliver it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010


I misplaced the USB stick that has the articles I was working on (Wintering pt.2, Red Honey pt.3) and I am cranky about it because now I have to rewrite everything. Whoops.

If it makes y'all feel any better, here is a picture of me with a sting in my arm:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Queen of the Sun

Queen of The Sun Teaser Clip from Taggart Siegel on Vimeo.

Yvon Achard, Bee Historian, show us the age-old relationship between man and bees.

I want to be this man.

Mainly I want to be able to grow a mustache, but I also covet the kind of close relationship and quiet interaction he has with his bees.

This documentary looks amazing. If any of you have access to a copy of the full version, I would LOVE to see it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Mystery of the Red Honey, Part Two

So . . .

Ethylene glycol. Nasty stuff. The kind of stuff you don't want in your honey, let alone your hives. Obviously, this suggestion caused a bit of consternation and I quickly got in touch with Cerise Mayo and Gita N., both of whom maintain hives at the Added Value Red Hook farm, as well as Ian Marvy, the director of Added Value. We started a huge e-mail chain of ideas, theories and suggestions, but eventually decided that the best and only course of action was to meet in person to take a look at the affected hives and take samples to send to the state food lab. We met on Labor Day.

I arrived at the farm prepared for the worst. I had already seen the pictures of the red "honey" on Facebook, but they didn't do it justice. Bright red, practically fluorescent bees flying into the hive, completely unaware of the alarm they were inciting just doing their thing. I should probably clarify that the bees themselves weren't (and still aren't) red. The dye is no more incorporated into their bodies than the red food dye we eat in so many foods is integrated into ours. It's just along for the ride. When a bee finds a source of food, it will fill itself to bursting. Its crop, or honey stomach, distends drastically until it takes up almost half of its abdomen, and since its exoskeleton is partially translucent, you can see whatever it’s carrying. In this case, the bees had found something bright red, and there was a lot of it. Hundreds, thousands of bees were coming in heavy, packed tight with neon goop. Like David mentioned in the New York Times article, it was pretty beautiful.

After we made our introductions and got over watching the bees, we set to work. Once the smoker was lit, we surrounded the strongest hive and cracked it open. We could immediately see that something was not quite right.

Take a closer look.
Image Copyright, 2010

Tiny Little Pies

To keep y'all entertained while I finish editing the second part of the Red "Honey" story, here is a video of wasps and other insects being hit in the face with tiny little pies, launched from a tiny little catapult.

Don't worry. Wasps are dicks.

They deserved it.