Colony Collapse Disorder has killed off more than one-third of the bees in the United States.
Beekeepers know that when there isn’t nectar readily available to their hives, as in the winter months, some turn to supplements. Traditionally it was (guess what) honey. But that’s what you want to harvest, so many turn to cheaper substitutions. Cane or beet sugar, mixed with water, was seen as acceptable as long as you removed the part of the comb containing the sugar once bees started producing again. It was important to keep the bees fed so they’d keep brooding and ready to produce honey.
And once again, it seems our need for convenience and affordability has cost us: a new study shows that a contaminant from heat-exposed HFCS may be killing off the bees.
But seriously, Cate...high fructose corn syrup? Surely you’re pulling my antenna. Stay with me, here, guys.
- High fructose corn syrup has replaced sucrose in beekeeping because it’s cheap.
- Bees are used commercially not just for making honey, but also for pollination. Farmers actually pay beekeepers to bring hives to their crops to help production “naturally”.
- But when they arrive, they’re hungry. To promote brooding, farmers give them a sweet substitute. Nowadays, it’s often HFCS.
- HFCS wouldn’t be a problem (besides the fact that it’s just more corn use), except get this: there is a contaminant formed by HFCS and heat that is awful for bees.
Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) is a heat-formed contaminant and is the most noted toxin to honey bees.
HMF is not something that keepers can currently test for. Researchers are working to find a solution to this part of the “bee problem.”
But for right now, farmers and keepers end up…hoping?
Former FDA researcher Renee Dufault has tirelessly worked with me on the issues regarding high fructose corn syrup (with more topics to come), and I thank her!
Image: Wikimedia Commons