Midstate beekeeper warns of honeybee decline

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A Midstate beekeeper is warning others about a massive decline in honeybee colonies this season.

“In our club, the average loss is 75-percent,” says Gary Carns, President of the Capital Area Beekeepers Association. “We had one gentleman in our club who had 43 (colonies), and 42 are gone.”

In comparison, Carns says the statewide average loss was around 43-percent last year. The reasons for the decline are varied, from pesticides and parasites, but Carns says the biggest factor is the rampant varroa mite, and human inability to properly treat an infestation.

“I can have my bees as strong and pest-free as possible,” adds Carns. “But if you’re not doing the same procedures, as your beehive dies, mine will become infested with the pests of your hive.”

Carns, a professional beekeeper and honey producer from Millersburg, operates around 150 working hives at a time. As someone whose livelihood depends on the health of his bees, he admits to taking “extremely good care” of his colonies year-round, including transporting his hives to warmer climates while most Pennsylvania beekeepers leave their colonies to fend for themselves in often harsh winters.

“You can’t just leave them in the backyard anymore, and wait until fall and start scraping your honey,” says Carns. “If you don’t control the mites and the viruses in spring and summer, it will only compound by fall, and by then its too late.”

Carns says while many novice beekeepers have good intentions, hoping to boost dwindling honeybee populations and improve pollination of Midstate crops, most lack sufficient beekeeping knowledge.

“Then when the bees die every year, everyone says ‘we’ll just buy more bees from Georgia,” adds Carns. “And that’s not necessarily the answer. The answer is, become a better beekeeper. If you want to help, that’s great. But do it responsibly.”

The opportunity to learn from Carns and other beekeeping experts will happen when the Capital Area Beekeepers Association offers its 30th Annual Short Course next month. The first portion of the course happens on Saturday, May 6 at the Dauphin County Agriculture & Natural Resources Center located at 1451 Peters Mountain Road, Dauphin, PA  17018. The second portion of the course happens Saturday, May 16 at Strites Orchard, 1000 Strites Road, Harrisburg, PA 17111.

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