Brick Township council members this week unanimously passed a resolution calling on the state legislature to reject a proposed regulation that they say would be unfriendly to residents who keep up bee hives as a hobby.
The proposal by the state Department of Agriculture would require anyone who maintains a bee hive to reside on a property more than a quarter-acre in size. And the township would be obligated under the law to enforce the regulation and issue fines for violations. Hives built before 2015 would be exempt from the land use portion of the law.
“One out of every three bites of every piece of food we eat is a result of pollination,” said Councilwoman Lisa Crate, who introduced the resolution, citing statistics that show a worrisome decrease in the number of bees that pollinate crops and other flora.
John Zingis, a Brick resident, is an amateur beekeeper whose hive could be affected by the law.
“Bees are very docile, they don’t bother anybody, and my neighbors’ flowers are doing very well,” said Zingis. “They are beneficial insects that are in decline and need our support.”
More than 30 towns across New Jersey have come out against the regulation, which also ban beekeepers from owning more than two hives, which are typically 18-inch by 18-inch box-style structures. Moreover, the regulation would require six foot tall walls – a solid wall, fence or “dense” vegetation – around a property where a hive is located.
“New Jersey is the home of many gardeners who, like many commercial farmers, depend on the pollination of crops,” said Crate.
The Department of Agriculture has said no incident in particular spurred the regulatory proposal, but NorthJersey.com reported a few incidents in the northern portion of the state where bees encroached on a neighboring property. Still, beekeepers say, honeybees are not aggressive and are not likely to sting a human being like a wasp or yellow-jacket.
Brick has been a leader in promoting pollination of plants and the protection of beneficial insects. Last year, the township approved an Eagle Scout project that resulted in the construction of a “Monarch Mountain” at Windward Beach Park to lure butterflies.
Besides the end of beekeeping as a hobby for residents, the regulations would also cost taxpayers, officials fear.
“Making the town have the burden of managing whatever the regulations are would an issue, plus the cost to the taxpayers of having to do that,” Crate said.
Public comment on the proposed regulations ended Jan. 19.