HALIFAX and BOILING SPRINGS, Pa. (WHTM) — On balance, they’re an ecological disaster.
But if you’re struggling to find something nice to say about spotted lanternflies, consider what seems to be a role they’re playing in sustaining honeybees.
Or more precisely, the role lanternfly excrement — or honeydew — is playing in sustaining the bees.
“It gives them a food source,” said Gary Carns, president of the Capital Area Beekeepers’ Association. “So they continue to produce a lot of young.”
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Carns — an eighth-generation beekeeper who produces Carns-branded honey sold (yes) at Karns — said that’s important because honeybees have lost some of their longtime food.
“Unfortunately, central Pennsylvania has switched to soybeans and corn fields for our summer crops of agriculture” rather than wheat, Carns said. “So there’s no hay fields out there anymore for the bees to get the wildflowers…. Without a food source, the bees don’t produce offspring.”
Not only have lanternflies indirectly helped bees produce young. More directly, Carns said they’re also contributing to honey production — albeit a darker, different-tasting honey, which Carns considers contamination and won’t allow into the containers bearing his family’s name.
Carns has moved many of his hives farther north in Pennsylvania and into New York state, where lanternflies haven’t proliferated to the degree they have here.
“I don’t like the flavor,” he said, while allowing: “People who like coffee seem to not mind the flavor at all.”
(Sure enough, your reporter likes coffee and — despite the darker, lanternfly-influenced honey’s stronger taste and notable aftertaste — didn’t mind it.)
In Boiling Springs, Kay Walters, a hobbyist beekeeper for the past decade, has been harvesting darker honey this year than last — but also just a lot more honey, period: about four times as much. Her kitchen counter is full of jars, which she’ll share with family and friends.
Why the quantity in addition to the darker hue?
Mark Gingrich, president of the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association, said highly localized weather conditions can impact honey production. Three or four miles can make a difference, he said.
Gingrich said a fair amount of steady precipitation is best. A drought is bad, but so is a monsoon, which can wash away nectar. Within Midstate Pa., he said areas west of U.S. Route 15 — yes, that includes Boiling Springs — have done best this year.