Bees are vital to New Jersey

| 03 Jul 2014 | 01:36

    In an effort to enhance New Jersey’s commercial and recreational bee industry and increase public awareness about our state’s official insect,I have sponsored, and the General Assembly recently approved, a package of bills to provide additional protections to the state’s 3,000 commercial and hobbyist beekeepers while ensuring they conform to safety standards.

    Bees are vital to our food chain. In the Garden State, they are instrumental in pollinating our strawberry, pumpkin, squash, peach, apple, cranberry, and blueberry crops. In fact, our state’s $7 million honey bee industry contributes to the production of nearly $200 million worth of fruits and vegetables annually.

    Unfortunately, bees are often considered a menace. If you’ve been stung, chances are it wasn’t a bee sting. More likely, a hornet or wasp was the culprit as honey and native bees won’t sting unless provoked. Honeybees are actually relatively gentle.

    As a result of this misguided fear, some municipalities are attempting to ban beehives. One of my four measures authorizes the state Department of Agriculture to regulate the keeping of beehives while giving municipalities a role in managing this growing hobby at the discretion of the Department. Another extends “Right to Farm” protections to commercial beekeepers to protect them from nuisance complaints which can be costly and time consuming.

    The third bill establishes a fine for intentionally destroying a man-made native bee hive while the fourth urges residents to support beekeepers by purchasing honey made in state.

    Protecting and promoting honey and native bees is crucial for maintaining a healthy agriculture industry. It is an essential economic engine providing jobs and an abundance of quality foods for our residents.

    Assemblyman Parker Space