Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

All the Buzz: The Capital Area Beekeepers Association and Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association are attracting new members, like bees to honey

Gary Carns is busy as a bee.

He was in the midst of an eight-day road trip covering 28,000 miles when we connected on the phone. He had a schedule to keep. He was due in South Carolina the following day for a delivery of some precious cargo—bees. Actually, 50,000 bees.

“I run bees from South Carolina to Pennsylvania and New York and back again, supplying them to orchards,” said Carns, of Millersburg. “I have a 4-year old vehicle—and let me see, I have 216,000 miles on my odometer right now.”

A full-time beekeeper, Carns serves as president of the Capital Area Beekeepers Association (CABA). It’s a growing hobby and profession that’s all the buzz, thanks to greater awareness about the importance of pollinators—especially bees—to our crops and environment, amid harmful effects of climate change on the pollinator population.

Bees are also pretty fascinating.

“Honeybees are the only living organism that doesn’t harm any other living organism,” Carns said. “In fact, when they visit a plant, they leave it better. The honeybee is an amazing creature.”

Carns, 59, is an eighth-generation beekeeper. His son, 14, represents the up-and-coming ninth generation.

“I’ve been doing it since 1969, when I started helping my dad,” Carns said.

Back then, the region’s beekeeping association was called the Dauphin County Beekeepers. Carns has been “heavily involved” the past 10 years as a CABA officer.


New Bees, Newbies

More than 200 Harrisburg-area residents belong to CABA, with about 25 newbies joining their ranks this year, having completed CABA’s 34th annual short course on beekeeping. It covers everything from how to establish a bee colony to bee biology and disease, hive management, and the sweet rewards of harvesting honey.

Membership is growing, Carns said, because “people are starting to realize the food bees make—honey—is a perfect food, and they’re starting to realize how important bees are for the pollination of our food.”

That food includes fruit orchards such as Strites’ Orchard, just outside Harrisburg, where CABA bee boxes provide a mutually beneficial exchange. CABA bees help pollinate Strites’ trees and crops—such as cherries—while gathering nectar, which they take back to CABA’s hives, where the insects work collaboratively in colonies to turn it into golden honey.


Sweet Spot

CABA also has maintained a bee yard at HACC in Harrisburg since 2016. Volunteers from the organization began clearing brush and debris from a 2-acre plot in the winter of 2020 in order to establish a community pollinator garden. Members researched and designed the garden to include plants that are both native to central Pennsylvania and pollinator-friendly.

The garden, adjacent to the Capital Area Greenbelt, not only provides beautiful scenery for passing bikers, runners and hikers to enjoy, but it elevates awareness and cultivates a greater appreciation for these tiny insects.

HACC’s hives also provide hands-on experience—for those in full beekeeping suits, of course.

“We’re trying to introduce people who have never had bees to beekeeping,” Carns said. “So twice a month or so, we show people what their bees should look like at HACC.”

CABA has another unique educational use for the HACC bee yard. Through a partnership with the national nonprofit Hives for Heroes, they introduce military veterans to beekeeping through free training and mentoring.



CABA is one of 37 clubs dedicated to nurturing and growing beekeeping across the state.

“Beekeeping continues to grow in popularity, although a little more slowly than it has in the previous decade,” said Mark Gingrich, 54, of Gingrich Apiaries in Dover, York County. He’s currently president of the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association (PSBA).

People seem to be attracted to—even falling in love with—beekeeping.

“Keeping bees is reasonably inexpensive to get started,” Gingrich said. “Most people love the learning process and are fascinated with how bees function as social insects, cooperative care of young, overlapping generations and the division of labor for a common cause.”

Current environmental buzzwords—pollination and climate change—are also powerful motivators for many new beekeepers.

“Both wild and managed pollinators face a wide array and ever-changing list of stressors,” Gingrich said. “They—in combination with changing weather trends— contribute to a national annual honey bee loss as high as 42%. In Pennsylvania, bees indirectly create many jobs and help support families devoted to growing fruits and vegetables.”

An estimated 80% of state crops rely on pollination, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.


Sweet Rewards

Gingrich got into beekeeping almost 20 years ago—as an entry-level, and affordable, way to be involved in the agricultural industry.

“I’ve always had a passion for agriculture,” said Gingrich, who grew up in 4-H and FFA. “As time passed, it became apparent to me that I would never have the resources available to overcome the economies of scale necessary for me to farm at a level beyond just a hobby. Beekeeping, at a sideliner level, provided me the opportunity to enter the arena at a considerably lower investment level.”

Beekeeping, like the lives of bees themselves, seems to rely on a fine balancing act of science and environment, work at an individual level, as well as key connections to a hive of activity at the community level.

“The reasons for keeping bees are many—from supporting the planet we share to the sweet reward of honey after a successful year,” Gingrich said, “But, for me, it also provides a certain joy in teaching others the craft.”

To learn more about the Capital Area Beekeepers Association and the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association, see and, respectively.


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