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Are you feeding your bees corn syrup? STOP!!! - waggledancers

vashraAug. 28th, 2009 04:28 pm Are you feeding your bees corn syrup? STOP!!!

I don't have any bees yet. My granddad had honeybees, and I want bees someday. But I'm in the middle of a metroplex, in an area that's had trouble with africanized hives. My apartment managers won't let me start even the tiniest of box hives :(    For now, I've just been lurking around the community, and I almost never post. But this article ran across my web surfing, and I thought it had some important information in it. I'm quite anti-High Fructose Corn Syrup already, and this article goes on the list of "reasons why it's bad." Anyhow since some folks around here might be feeding syrup to bees, I thought I'd post it here.

Scientists have found that high fructose corn syrup may be a strong factor in contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder.

Given that just last year there was a study that got very little press which found MERCURY in corn syrup ( check out ), this is just one more reason to avoid the stuff.

P.S. If you want a graphic explanation of why fructose in general and high fructose corn syrup is very bad for you, check out
this video.  It's very long, and a little bit overzealous at the beginning, but the data is verifiable and terrifying.

Current Mood: anxiousanxious

13 comments - Leave a commentPrevious Entry Share Next Entry


Date:August 28th, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC)
Generally the "syrup" mix I and my family feed the bees during lean times is sugar and water. Not sure about other keepers, but that's what most of the books I read recommend, and also what I learned way back in bee-keeping class in 2000 at the Ohio State University Extension's seminar.
Date:August 28th, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC)
Your first link is the same as the second (WaPost mercury) -- did you have a link to the CCD/syrup study?
Date:August 28th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC)


Sorry, I fixed the entry. It now has the link to the corn syrup study.

The problem with feeding bees sugar water, is that today's table sugar (unlike our grandparents' table sugar) is sucrose, not dextrose. Sucrose is 1/2 fructose in chemical composition, so if heating fructose is bad, then heating sucrose is also bad.

You can get pure dextrose at most general stores for 1.25USD/lb give or take local prices. Dextrose and maltose are both just glucose molecules bound in various ways (no fructose), so it should be safe for bees/horses/people as far has heating it goes.
Date:August 28th, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC)

Re: oops!

I hadn't heard the "old table sugar was dextrose" thing before -- can you tell me more about that?

Thanks for fixing the link; I'll go read it.
Date:August 29th, 2009 01:39 am (UTC)


The first recorded use of cane sugar in Europe is 1099. A plant described as a "reed" that gave "honey without bees" was mentioned, and it is known that the Arabs had been using cane sugar for some time at that point. Like other oriental spices, the stuff made its way to Europe.

Back in the day, refined sugar (crystallized table sugar) was expensive and heavily taxed. This sugar was usually from sugar cane or sugar beets. People who could afford this sugar were called "refined" people. The less molasses that was left in it, the more refined the sugar was.

Dextrose (corn sugar) wasn't as expensive. Corn will grow in temperate climates (as far north as New York, England, etc.) so there wasn't near as much travel for anyone to deal with. Pulling the dextrose from corn is apparently not as difficult a process as pulling sugar from cane, and the yield is higher. Dextrose is pretty much glucose with a less "glue" sounding name.

Anyway, as the upper and lower classes blended into a smooshy middle, we ended up with sucrose for all. This was heavily rationed by things like the first and second world wars and the great depression, but by the late 50's everyone could "afford" sucrose.

Not to be outdone by loss of revenue for people not buying dextrose (except for horse feed, plant food, and beer....), some guy in Japan came up with high fructose corn syrup. Solidly 20% sweeter than sucrose, it was cheaper and lasted longer. Now it's in *everything*.

So uh...sorry for the late and now rather off topic reply. If you want more on the history of sugar, check out "Bittersweet: The Story of Sugar" by Peter Macinnis.

Another favorite of mine is "Pure, white and deadly: The problem of sugar" by John Yudkin, but good luck getting a copy as it has been out of print for a while.
Date:August 31st, 2009 04:54 am (UTC)

Re: Sugar...

I would be curious to learn if there is something about the chemical bonds of sucrose (which is an a-glucose molecule bound to a fructose molecule) from sugar beets that keeps the fructose from becoming toxic to the bees the way the high fructose corn syrup was.

However, I suspect the problem lies in the unnaturally high ratio of fructose to other chemicals, or some third chemical in processed corn syrup that's causing some kind of synergy that's toxic. In HFCS, aside from any unmentioned chemicals, you're dealing with nearly pure fructose, with very little dextrose or glucose (they're variants of the same thing). Generally in nature the mix is at most a 50/50 split with glucose, the latter being the "immediately available" fuel to keep one going while one's system breaks down the fructose.

There are considerably more cases of Colony Collapse Disorder here in the states than in Europe overall (I'm guessing you're in Italy by your username?), though Wikipedia's article on the topic lists nine European countries so far (including Italy) which have reported seeing the disorder.

I don't have stats for y'all but here in the States the AIA estimated that we lost 10% of the *nation's* honey bee hives (wild and domestic) between 2006 and 2007. Now, I'm pretty sure that number is inflated so hungry researchers can keep those salaries that let their wives wear Prada...but still...it's something to keep an eye on.

However, we also know there have been major die-offs since at *least* the 19th century, and the world hasn't ended yet.
Date:August 29th, 2009 11:39 am (UTC)

Re: Sugar...

Date:August 29th, 2009 12:58 am (UTC)

Re: oops!


I find the Dextrose/Sucrose thing unlikely.

Sucrose is another name for table sugar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sucrose

Dextrose is the same as glucose: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glucose

Obviously honey is the best source of food/energy for bees, most beekeepers only feed sugar-syrup when it's a new hive, the bees didn't produce enough honey for the winter, or the nectar flow is low.
Date:August 29th, 2009 05:42 am (UTC)

Re: oops!

this. Feeding the bees sugar syrup keeps them alive during shipping and can help get a brand new hive established.
Date:August 29th, 2009 05:41 am (UTC)

Re: oops!

sorry, chemist here.

Sucrose is a disaccharide (two sugar) of a molecule of fructose covalently bonded to a molecule of glucose. A bag of sugar (sucrose) is not a 50/50 mix of glucose and fructose. Dissolve sucrose in water and then evaporate the water and you will be left with sucrose.

Maltose is also a disaccharide of two glucose molecules covalently bonded. It is not the same thing as glucose.

Disaccharides require enzymes or chemicals to break them into their monosaccharide components. The time and temperature you get in a kitchen will most likely not be enough.

And unrelated, HFCS is way too processed, and not fit for any consumption.
Date:August 29th, 2009 07:11 am (UTC)

Re: oops!

I'm a brewer, so my reference to sugars is informed by that...

Here's a nice link about sugars and heat and invert vs. Candy sugar and how to make one from the other:

Date:September 7th, 2009 12:54 am (UTC)


You are CORRECT, sucrose (table sugar) is ONE molecule of fructose covalently bonded to ONE molecule of fructose. That gives us a ratio for
fructose : glucose

1:1 == 1/1 == 50/50

Therefore a bag of table sugar is *absolutely* 50/50 fructose/glucose (+/- dirt, debris, bug parts, and angry not-so-fair-trade workers' spit).

You are also correct, putting sucrose in water does NOT break the covalent bond. I never suggested that it did. Heating it without an additional catalyst probably won't work either, though you may eventually get caramel. By the time you get caramel, you're dealing in temperatures not seen inside most (all?) biological organisms, and a host of other chemical reactions that do not apply to this thread.

However, last time I checked, the *very* first thing a body (human or bee or bacteria) does when faced with sucrose, is apply sucrase to it. This enzyme creates a pretty nearly instant exothermic(?) reaction that neatly separates the glucose and the fructose from each other. The body then goes on to process the glucose and fructose separately and *very* differently.

The volume of fructose ingested then becomes a HUGE issue. While we (and bees and most life on Earth) are great at processing glucose, we (and possibly bees) lack any proper way to deal well with the fructose. I think the bees do a little better at it than we do, but the research out there is still somewhat limited.

Being a chemist, I think you would find the very detailed reactions for how the *human* body processes glucose vs. fructose given in Dr. Lustig's video quite interesting. If you're a chemist with any background in bio-chem at all, you'll also find them bloody disturbing. I'd love to see a response from you after you watch it, because your chemistry is surely still better than mine, and if the doctor is lying, I want to know. His stuff seemed pretty good "on paper" as I followed the reactions, but he does veer away from chemistry and into a great deal of biology.

As for maltose, all I can say is that the body comes from God, Gaia, or random evolutionary luck with maltase to snap that pesky alpha bond too. The big difference the utter lack of fructose that results (since maltose is just 2 glucose), and fructose seems to be the toxic moiety.

Dextrose is d-glucose -- a "right handed" glucose molecule. As far as the human body is concerned glucose == dextrose.

Incidentally, some scientists over at the ESA are/were doing research into how plant yeasts that live on/in(?) nectar are messing up the chemical makeup of nectar in some plants. The result is that the yeasts munch the glucose, and the overall fructose content of the nectar goes up. Bees collecting this nectar are then getting a "high fructose syrup" variety of it...and as this thread started out saying: *high* fructose is bad for you (and your bees). [Ref: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/08-0241.1]

See...you're a chemist. Invent a safely edible "fructase" that could be taken the way lactose intolerant people supplement their diets and you'll be very *very* rich. I want some of the cash though because it's my idea ;)