Chatham Community Bee Co-Op is Buzzing

By Candace Kelley

A swarm of people in Chatham, New Jersey is taking care bees.

“I came up with this idea that some time, I would find a beekeeper who would be willing to head a group work with novices like me. People who care about bees but don’t know what they’re doing,” said Chatham Mayor Bruce Harris.

And he found that person in Albert Tomaro. After taking a popular beekeeping course at Rutger’s University, Tomaro began his beekeeping journey. He helps run The Community Bee Garden. The garden is an idea that was buzzing around Harris’ head for over a year. Since this co-op began, community members have pitched in to take care of the honeybee and help fill the void of collapsing bee colonies over the years. This bee enthusiast even has an observation hive in his son’s room. The bees come and go as they please.

“This is something that that really contributes to our environment,” said Harris.

This Community Bee Garden started just a few months a go with over 64,000 honey bees that were trucked up from Georgia. Now the Garden has over 2OO,000 honeybees.

And since the honey bees arrived a lot has changed. The electric fence for one– to keep out the bears. A little bacon is wrapped around fence– so if a curious bear is attracted to the bees, they touch the bacon– get an electrical shock and hopefully go away.

According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the state has 2O,000 bee colonies that represent a $7 million honeybee industry. These honeybees pollinate of nearly $200 million worth of fruits and vegetables every year. Without the bees, these foods would disappear.

“The honeybee actually pollinates one third of the food we eat,” said Tomaro.

And these bees allow local stores to give shoppers what they want.

“Everybody seems to be into the bees lately. Because of the allergies for one thing,” said Home Sweet Home owner Janice Cocchi.

Many live by the rule– A teaspoon of local honey each day takes the allergies away.

“Bees pollinate. They go out. They collect nectar and pollen and bring back to the hive and that’s what the honey is made of. These flowers that are blossoming that people are allergic to,” said Tomaro.

And Harris has even more in store.

“I hope that after we get through this year we add more hives. I also want people to learn how to grow plants that a bee friendly. Because one of the challenges that bees face is that they run out of food in the fall,” said Harris.

And Harris says it’s his responsibility– and the community’s to make sure that bees get the food they need, so that people can get the food they need.

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