One week ago, Arthur Mondella killed himself after police raided his maraschino cherry factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn (watch the video below for the full news story). For years, the 57 year old had been using the basement of Dell’s Maraschino Cherries—one of the largest cherry companies in the country—to hide New York City’s largest marijuana farm.

When the police discovered the secret growing operation the father of three reportedly went into the bathroom and shot himself. As if that wasn’t depressing enough, police said that pot-related crimes generally carry light punishment. According to a law enforcement source in the New York Post, “in this day and age, you can do no jail time for marijuana.”

Photo: Dell’s Maraschino Cherries

What lies beneath. (Photo: Dell’s Maraschino Cherries)

Yesterday, the Daily Beast revealed yet another twist in the sordid tale. The pot farm might not have been discovered were it not for local bees. According the article, the police were tipped off to the underground enterprise in 2009, but didn’t have enough evidence to secure a search warrant. Their investigation had ground to a halt when they came across a news story in 2010 about mysterious red bees in Brooklyn.

Apparently, the insects had been getting into the factory’s red-dyed high fructose corn syrup, which was giving them a rosy hue and causing them to make foul tasting sticky red stuff instead of their usual honey. The New York City Beekeepers Association visited the factory to figure out exactly how the bees were sipping crimson drank, thinking perhaps there was run off leaking from the facility.

The mystery was solved when they figured out that as vats of red syrup were moved from one part of the factory to another, they were briefly out in the open. The vats were sealed and order restored to Brooklyn’s apiaries, but the notion of run off had given the police an idea. They asked the Department of Environmental Conservation to visit the factory under the guise of checking for illegal dumping and waste.

Photo: Facebook/TGI Fridays

Dell’s provides maraschino cherries to TGI Fridays, Chick-Fil-A, and Buffalo Wild Wings. (Photo: Facebook/TGI Fridays)

Although the DEC didn’t find anything of note that time, a recent push to close the unresolved case resulted in one more “illegal dumping inspection” this year. This time they found what they were really looking for: a hidden door in the garage that led to Gotham’s largest ever marijuana growing plant.

“The bees changed everything, because the explanation for what so mysteriously turned them red indirectly gave investigators a pretext to twice search the factory after they were unable to obtain a search warrant,” concludes the Daily Beast. “Were it not for the red bees of Red Hook, Arthur Mondella might still be Brooklyn’s own Cherry King and New York City’s No. 1 pot grower.”

[via The Daily Beast]