Did you know that more than 80 percent of U.S. food crops are pollinated by honeybees? In New Jersey, known as the Garden State, pollination is critical for crops. There’s another connection, too. The honeybee is the state’s official insect. Assemblyman Ron Dancer has introduced a package of bills to protect the state’s commercial and recreational bee industry.

Flickr User Ryan Wick

One measure extends the “Right to Farm” protections to commercial beekeepers to protect them from nuisance complaints. Under current law, if a complaint is filed, the case is referred to a municipal court which can be time consuming and costly. Prosecutors and judges usually have little understanding of the industry. Under this measure, these complaints would be referred to a county agricultural board which better understands issues involving beekeeping.

“During the last several years, both the honeybee and native bee populations have been on the decline for various reasons, including habitat loss and disease,” said Dancer. “These measures are an attempt to educate the public about the importance of bees to our food chain while providing additional protections to both commercial and hobbyist beekeepers.”

The Assemblyman’s second bill protects hobbyist beekeepers by authorizing the State to regulate the keeping of beehives. You may be surprised to learn that beekeeping as a hobby is gaining popularity in New Jersey in both urban and suburban areas, but some municipalities are attempting to ban beehives.

“I hope my colleagues in the Legislature will take action on this package of bills sooner than later,” said Dancer. “People have an inherent fear of bees because they don’t know much, if anything, about the various species of bees, their behavior and their importance to agriculture. The truth is most bees will not sting you if not provoked. Honey and native bees are not the same as hornets and wasps.”

The final measure establishes a fine of up to $500 for each offense when an individual intentionally destroys a man-made native bee hive. A native bee provides for the pollination of crops and plants.