HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – Within the next few weeks, 15,000 bees imported from Florida will take up residence in a specially-designed compound at Ann Van Middlesworth Park.
Members of the Hillsborough Rotary have taken the lead on the project, which will be turned over to Boy Scouts from Troop 1776 who will become the bees’ caretakers once the Queen Bee and her minions are settled into their hives, according to John Shockley, president.
Shockley and other members of the Rotary, along with Scoutmaster Mike Ford and members of Troop 1776 attended Tuesday night’s township committee meeting where the project was officially unveiled.
The Rotary prepared a small plot in the park where the hives will be located and protected by an eight-foot fence. A maintenance and supply shed will be erected inside the fence, according to Joe Horner, a member of the Rotary.
The bee hives will be the focal point of an educational display emphasizing the critical and essential role that bees play in sustaining the food cycle, according to Horner. Plaques will be installed explaining how bees pollinate and produce honey and why they are essential to the vitality of food crops nationwide.
A noticeable decline in the population of bees was detected beginning in 2006, raising concerns and prompting the White House to publish the first National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, a 64-page policy framework for saving the nation's bees, butterflies and other pollinating animals.
The good news is that the decline has bottomed out thanks to a concerted effort by beekeepers to propagate and replenish their bee colonies.
The number of honeybee colonies has actually risen since 2006, from 2.4 million to 2.7 million in 2014, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
The 2014 statistics show that the number of managed colonies - commercial honey-producing bee colonies managed by human beekeepers -- is at the highest levels it’s been in 20 years.
Members of the Scout troop are busy working with Rotary member Frank Martin refurbishing and painting the utility building that will be erected at the compound and the slats that form the framework of the hives. Eventually, the hives are expected to produce an adequate amount of honey to be harvested and sold, according to Shockley.
Honey produced in the first year of the hive’s existence will be sufficient enough to sustain the bees through the winter, according to Shockley.
The Rotary was supported in its efforts by York Fence, Central Jersey Nurseries and Country Classics.