Local beekeepers push back against proposed regulations

Bees cluster around their queen to keep her warm. The cold weather could kill them, but the bees aren’t the only ones in survival mode. These two beekeepers are fighting to stop new proposed regulations.

Beekeeping in New Jersey used to be regulated by municipalities, but in 2015 a law was enacted to set statewide standards to maintain the health of bee colonies. The Department of Agriculture was then asked to formulate an add-on plan to regulate beekeeping.

“We didn’t want to prohibit beekeeping, for one, because they are essential. And we wanted to also stop the nuisance factor from having too many bees in one location,” said the director of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s plant industry division, Joe Zoltowski.

Under the plan, lot size determines how many hives you can have. No hives are allowed for less than ¼ acre of property. Two hives are allowed for property between ¼ acre and 5 acres. On more than 5 acres, beekeepers can have up to 40 hives. Beekeepers are allowed to apply for special waivers if their hives existed before the law that was created two years ago.

“If you have all your hives congregated in one area, you’re really not pollinating large areas of the state. That one local area is being pollinated well, however all of those bees are also struggling on those limited resources,” Zoltowski said.

“I have 20 customers, so I have a lot of different locations. It doesn’t make sense for me to add any more locations because then I’m spending more time driving between locations and not actually managing the bees. It’s punitive and restrictive for the beekeepers,” said Janet Katz, the director of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association.

The proposed regulations also tackle where the hives can be on your property. They state that hives must be 10 feet from the property line, 25 feet from any roadside or public walkway, and 85 feet from any public places like schools, playgrounds or sites of worship.

“I’ve lived in this property for 25 years. My neighbor in the back, Jim raised eight children behind me. None of his kids never had a problem with the bees. Neighbors on either side both had swimming pools, I have a swimming pool, nobody ever got stung.” said Katz.

A fence is also required and another part of the proposal makes beginners in beekeeping take a course.

“People will have second thoughts before they even take up beekeeping,” said Evans.

“It’s not like they’re limited in how many colonies and that’s all you can ever have. You can increase, but there is a process in place for that. As opposed to starting out with lots of colonies and now, ‘Geez, it’s not really working out and my neighbors are all complaining.’ Now what do you do?” said Zoltwoski.

Beekeepers and members of the public can weigh in until Jan. 19 and the proposal may be amended.

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