When beehives in the Meadowlands were vandalized, one of the members of the North East New Jersey Beekeepers Association (NENJBA) reached out to PSE&G, hoping that the company had video cameras that might have seen who did it.
One of the members of the association had strategically located her hives in the Meadowlands, and found that they had been vandalized.
Fortunately, the bees themselves managed to survive, although this time of year with freezing temperatures, the bees could have perished.
In this case, only the tops of the hive boxes were removed.
While the company didn’t have any surveillance video of the scene, it does have boxes, said Rich Dwyer, who has been a strong advocate for the environment throughout Hudson County for decades.
“I saw an email they sent to PSE&G,” Dwyer said. “The beehives are near our right of way in the Meadowlands. Vandals damaged some of the bee hives. They wanted to know if we had security cameras. I told them if they want, they should send me the plans. Our guys can build them new beehive boxes or we have a partnership with Bayonne High School’s carpentry class.”
Dwyer reached out to the school and made the arrangements, not to repair those broken, but to supply the association with additional boxes that would give potential beekeepers a head start.
“Our guys can build them new beehive boxes or we have a partnership with Bayonne High School’s carpentry class.” – Richard Dwyer
But the idea soon blossomed into something even better. The keeping of honeybees in New Jersey is a significant expense.
“Many people are interested in beekeeping,” said Frank Mortimer, president of NENJBA). “But they lack funds to start up.”
If the students could build boxes, the association could help new people get started, by eliminating the sizeable expense of a hive box. Ironically, Bayonne sports teams are known as “The Bayonne Bees.”
NENJBA provides education on honey bees
NENJBA is a not-for-profit, all-volunteer chapter of the state-wide New Jersey Beekeepers Association (NJBA). It is dedicated to the promotion and support of all aspects of beekeeping in New Jersey.
“We have two functions,” Mortimer said. “To educate the general public on the benefits and importance of beekeeping.”
The other is to teach its members how to become better and more successful beekeepers.
There are a lot of myths and misinformation about honeybees. In particular, many people mistake honey bees for yellow jackets.
“Honey bees are not aggressive and do not sting people unless their nest is disturbed,” Mortimer said. “If I get stung it is because I did something wrong or there is something wrong with the hive.”
Yellow jackets and some other bees are aggressive.
Although primarily representing beekeepers in Bergen and Passaic counties, members hail from throughout Hudson, Hunterdon, Somerset and Union counties in New Jersey, as well as Rockland, Orange, and Westchester Counties in New York.
The group has members in Jersey City, Secaucus, North Bergen and elsewhere in Hudson County.
“Some of the people who attend their meetings are interested in becoming beekeepers, but can’t build them,” Dwyer said. “Some swarms pass through the area and can’t find hives, so they keep going.”
The Bayonne carpentry class will start by building ten.
“But they are willing to build more,” Dwyer said, noting that there is a big need in the area. “Some people harvest their honey in July. The later it is, the heavier the honey becomes.”
Dwyer’s offer was welcomed by the association.
“A hive box can cost from $250 to $300,” one of the members said.
While a number of people have become members of the association, some cannot afford the cost of setting up. Acquiring bees and other necessities make it an expensive hobby. By providing the box, the association helps reduce the set up cost.
The association has a very good mentoring program, one of a kind in the state.
The association has about 160 paid members, some of whom are throughout Hudson County.
“Our club existed for two years,” Mortimer said. “We promote the benefits of the honey bee in general, and train bee keepers and promote best practices. All of our members are back yard beekeepers. We do not have commercial beekeepers as members. Our membership has fewer than five hives, most have about two.”
“We meet once a month,” he said. These often include a guest speaking on a specific topic. “It’s all education based. We bring in experts that talk about various topics.”
“We have a diverse group of people that are beekeepers or want to be,” he said. “Our plan is to provide hives to those who want to have bees.”
What does it take to be a beekeeper?
“You have to think it’s fun being around stinging insects,” Mortimer said, laughing. “Actually it is a lot of fun, very peaceful. Being a beekeeper is a kind of forced Zen. You have to be in the present moment or you will get stung. First thing, you think it’s enjoyable to have bees, once you have that to be successful you need knowledge.”
Backyard beekeeping has become more important over the last few decades with the decline of the wild honey bee.
The primary cause of this is a mite that is not native to America, but migrated here with the Asian honeybee in 1987.
This impacts the health of the bees, and part of the association’s mission is to help beekeepers develop strategies for keeping their bees healthy.
“It’s an ongoing battle,” he said.
Honey bees are responsible for pollinating of flowering fruits and vegetables as well as cotton, and all of the almond crop
“It is increasingly rare to find a feral hive,” he said. “Once a colony gets the mite, it needs medication to fight it off.”
Secaucus beekeeper said association has been a big help
Nancy Doyle, of Secaucus, said she has been a member of the association for three years.
“You have to attend meetings,” she said. “It is where you get most of the information. There are guest speakers.”
She joined because she wanted to pollinate her vegetable garden and eventually started a hive.
When Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, it wiped out her hive.
“All the bees drowned and the hives floated away,” she said.
She rebuilt, and talks with other members in North Bergen.
“This is not cheap,” she said. “Bees need to be treated for mites and other parasites. In winter, if they don’t have enough honey of their own, they might starve. So you have to feed them. You always have to check on them.”
She said the hive boxes are expensive
But it is worth the effort. The flavor of honey changes depending on where the bees go. She recently had honey with the flavor of spearmint, a plant she has near her house.
“Many of the bees go out into the meadowlands where there are a lot of flowers,” she said.
Dwyer said some honey is affected by the water source. He said some honey in the meadowlands has a somewhat salty taste because of the brackish water.”
The Northeast New Jersey Beekeepers Association is open to beekeepers and anyone interested in beekeeping. The meetings are the third Friday of every month, beginning at 7:30 p.m. the group meets at Ramapo College 505 Ramapo Valley Road, Mahwah, in the Anisfield School of Business, Room 135S.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.