BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The question of proper residential beekeeping in Bridgewater has now been sent back to the state.
The Bridgewater Township Council unanimously approved a resolution that opposes the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s beekeeping regulations in their current form. It also requests that the New Jersey State League of Municipalities help create legislation and regulations that will protect both beekeepers and non-beekeepers alike.
The council had previously discussed the matter in December, when several reisdents said they considered the proposed regulations restrictive. The regulations, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s website, were concerned with potential diseases of bees, and more.
The proposed rules included supplying at least one gallon of water per day per colony, and also divided beekeepers into two primary classifications, commercial and hobbyist. The proposed new rules also set other standards regarding the keeping of bees, including on what kinds of property they could be kept.
Some residents felt the regulations were preemptive.
Comments regarding the proposed regulations were due back to the state by Jan. 19.
Girl scout Lindsay Cole, who said that her family has been in Bridgewater for 65 years and has also kept bees, said she supports the council’s resolution. She explained that the community would suffer without bees, and that there would be less pollination if the state’s restrictive measures on beekeeping were enacted.
“It would be a very large issue,” said Cole, who added she is currently working on her Gold Award project about saving bees.
Cole said she manages her own hive at home.
Bridgewater resident Adele Barree said her family has also been in town 65 years, and that she started keeping bees about a decade ago, with two hives on less than half an acre of land. A 4-H leader and a project leader of her local bee club, she added that last year, her club’s two hives produced honey, which children helped to extract.
“It was a positive learning experience,” she said of the honey that was later sold.
Barree also called the rules proposed by the state “limiting and restrictive,” especially for beekeepers who keep their insects on less than 5 acres of land. She said that she supports telling the state to “go back to the drawing board.”
Bridgewater resident and beekeeper Charlie Ilsley said he maintains 3 acres with beehives, and has had bees for over 30 years.
“I’m here to support the resolution,” he said, “(although) we do need regulations.”
Ilsley, whois a member of the New Jersey Morris/Somerset Beekeepers Association, said the organization’s fundamental mission is to educate the public on beekeeping and related agriculture at county fairs and similar events, by using live demonstrations and even honey judging.
Councilman Howard Norgalis said he was okay with the resolution, although he added it was probably politically astute not to figuratively poke state officials in the eye.
Councilman Allen Kurdyla, who said earlier in the meeting that he had had discussions with Ilsley and Bridgewater Mayor Dan Hayes about the resolution, said the additional expertise of the League of Municipalities would be required.
Hayes, who was present at the meeting, said he was in support of the resolution.
Council president Christine Henderson Rose said she was opposed to naming organizations in the resolution that could later provide needed information.
But the resolution was approved unanimously.