Bees in your backyard? Thank NJ’s 4,000 amateur beekeepers
Amateur beekeeping is becoming increasingly popular in the Garden State.
In fact, there may be as many as 4,500 people raising bee colonies all over New Jersey.
“We have at least 3,000 registered amateur beekeepers and there may be a thousand more that are unregistered,” says Joe Zoltowski, a state Department of Agriculture bee expert and director of the Plant Industry Division.
He says says anyone who wants to raise bees is supposed to register with the Department of Agriculture.
“The purpose of that is for disease control. There are diseases bees get and that can affect the health and vitality of colonies, so it helps our inspector to know where colonies are to see if a problem is spreading.”
He says you don’t have to live in the middle of nowhere in order to raise bees. In fact many people have bee colonies in the cities and suburban areas.
“There’s no reason why you couldn’t. Bees are docile, they pretty much don’t bother anyone, they go about their activities, they pollinate.”
Bees are necessary to pollinate fruit and vegetable plants.
He points out the number of bees you can have in a colony can drop dramatically during the colder months, but then go as high as 50,000 during the spring and summer.
It’s also important, says Zoltowski, for beekeepers to make sure they’ve got a water source near the hive because if you don’t, “the bees will go to the next available water source, which could be the next door neighbor's pool, for example, and that kind of irritates the next door neighbors.”
He says if someone in your neighborhood is raising bees, you may see thousands of them flying nearby. But you should not be worried.
“They’re not the killer bees of the movies that attack people," he said.
He notes bee colonies can quickly become quite large at this time of year, so it’s a good idea to take a beginning beekeeping class at a local college or you can reach out to the New Jersey Beekeepers Association to get specific information about controlling the amount of bees in your hive.
Zoltowski says when a colony gets too big there are instances where “they go into a swarming behavior if they’re not given enough room, or the beekeeper is not providing good swarm management techniques.”
This may look terrifying, but he points out there’s really nothing to be concerned about.
“When they swarm, they’re very gentle. All they’re doing is looking for a new home for half the colony. When they swarm, half the colony leaves.”
The old queen bee will stay while a new queen will leave to start another colony.
If you see a swarm of bees you can contact the Department of Agriculture or the Beekeepers Association and they can help to move the bees.