The Sticky Scandals Of Brooklyn's Maraschino Cherry Factory

In the summer of 2010, the newly legalized beekeepers of Red Hook, Brooklyn were noticing a disturbing trend. Instead of their on-brand yellowish color, Brooklyn bees were sporting incandescent red bellies. Their honey had also turned red, with a taste and consistency less like honey and more like the blood of someone suffering from 19 types of diabetes.

Brooklyn's alt-apiarists were mystified by the cause. Climate change? Vampire bees? A sign of the return of the Red Queen, bee god of carnage? As it turns out, the culprit was something called F.D. & C. Red No. 40, a dye commonly used in maraschino cherries. Now unless you're a fancy kind of alcoholic, you probably don't have a lot of maraschino cherries lying around, but the residents of Red Hook happen one of the largest maraschino cherry factories in the U.S.A., Dell's Maraschino Cherries, for a neighbor. The little worker bees had found their way to the run-off of the sticky sweet syrup vats and seized the means of sugary production. This is actually more common than you might think, with urban beekeepers all over the world reporting that candy factory-adjacent colonies often produce colorful, Willy Wonky-like hives whose honey, much like Wonka, is completely disgusting and should be kept away from children at all cost.

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While maraschino bee news received a lot of buzz, factory owner and beloved Brooklyn businessman Arthur Mondella refused any interviews and quickly started working with the hipster beekeepers to erect drone-countermeasures. It might seem weird for an entrepreneur to not want loads of free attention to remind 99% of the population that, yes, maraschino cherries are still a thing, but Mondella had a very good reason to want to avoid publicity. Unbeknownst to anyone, even his workers, part of his cherry profits stemmed from another sticky source: Brooklyn's biggest pot farm hidden under his factory, using the sickly sweet smell of maraschino cherries to mask its dankness.

We're not sure which of those smells wafting out of a teenager's bedroom would be more worrisome. elizaraxi/FlickrWe're not sure which of those smells wafting out of a teenager's bedroom would be more worrisome.

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Most, but not all of it. After enough tip-offs over the years, the NYPD caught wind of the operation. But because they didn't have enough proof to convince a judge to let them raid the candy cherry shop, the police used the red bee scare as an excuse to conduct several environmental stings instead. In 2015, they finally found the false wall in the factory, behind which they discovered a 2,500 square feet hydroponic marijuana farm, a garage full of vintage cars, $130,000 in cash, and a copy of the book "The World Encyclopedia of Organized Crime."

And this is where the bee story turns from sweet like cherries to bitter like greens. Police also found the 57-year-old Mondella, who had shot himself dead with a .375 magnum in the bathroom, refusing the ignominy of being dragged to a courtroom for doing nothing wrong except providing Brooklyn's beard crowd with something other than pretentious cocktails to make their parties a guaranteed success.

For more weird tangents and crime stories involving tiny umbrellas, do follow Cedric on Twitter.

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