Many if not all states across the United States have become aware of the many factors that are contributing to the decline of honeybee colonies. Facing threats like pesticides, diseases, parasites, and a lack of land or resources, most experienced U.S. beekeepers are doing whatever they can to produce healthy bees that can help pollinate the roughly 75 percent of the nuts, vegetables, and fruits grown here. However, according to Pennsylvania beekeeper Gary Carns, inexperienced beekeepers are just as much to blame for declining bee hives.
“I can have my bees as strong and pest-free as possible,” Carns said. “But if you’re not doing the same procedures, as your beehive dies, mine will become infested with the pests of your hive.” Those pests Carns speaks of are varroa mites, small parasites that invade hives and feed on hemolymph (a blend of fluid and blood) within the bees. They are most commonly seen on larvae but can be found on adult bees too. “In our club, the average loss is 75 percent,” Carns said, who is president of his local Beekeepers Association. “We had one gentleman in our club who had 43 [colonies], and 42 are gone.”
What Beekeeping Takes
As an eighth-generation beekeeper/honey producer, Carns runs about 150 active hives at one time. Since his livelihood is based on his bees’ health, he must take “extremely good care” of his hives. This includes transporting his colonies to warmer environments while many Pennsylvania beekeepers would leave theirs to typically severe winters.
Dispersing the label “hobbyist beekeeper,” Carns believes colonies cannot simply be left out in the yard anymore until honey season. Beekeepers need to spend the entire year controlling viruses and mites, which only compound in autumn. Even though many beginning beekeepers mean well, their good intentions often lack the proper beekeeping knowledge to back them up. “When the bees die every year, everyone says ‘we’ll just buy more bees from Georgia,’” Carns said. “The answer is become a better beekeeper. If you want to help, that’s great, but do it responsibly.”
Carns and his fellow members of the Capital Area Beekeepers Association intend to share further knowledge about honeybees with the rest of their community by offering a two-day short course on bees and beekeeping. Hopefully, through their expertise and call to action, these dedicated beekeepers will see some of their fears regarding novice beekeepers in their community dissipated.
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