(TRENTON) – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture, in partnership with the New Jersey Beekeepers Association and Cook College – Rutgers University, today announced a program to encourage new beekeepers in the state.
“Insect pollination is vital to many important fruit and vegetable crops grown in New Jersey, such as apples, blueberries, cantaloupes, cranberries, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and watermelons, which account for $115.8 million in revenue each year,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles M. Kuperus. “This investment in this cooperative venture will help our honeybee industry grow and contribute to sustaining the fruit and vegetable farmers who depend on honeybees for pollination of their crops.”
The “Bee-ginner’s Beekeeping Program” will offer starter hives and basic beekeeping equipment, worth up to $300, for first-time beekeepers who successfully complete the 2006 “Bee-ginning Beekeepers” course, offered by the Cook College Office of Continuing Professional Education. They also will be encouraged to join the New Jersey Beekeepers Association. Participants must be New Jersey residents and at least 10 years old.
“Beehives are moved all over the country to perform their essential roles in pollination, especially in tree nut, vegetable and fruit crops,” said Bob Goodman, executive dean of Cook College and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. “Unfortunately, due to two very destructive pests, the tracheal and Varro mites, bee populations have declined in numbers over recent decades. These pests have caused major shortages of bees in New Jersey and neighboring states. The New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station is committed to addressing this problem so that adequate bee populations will be available for pollination in the future.”
The Department of Agriculture, through a grant, is underwriting the cost of the starter hives and beekeeping equipment for program participants. The State Apiarist and apiary inspectors will examine the newly established beehives and offer recommendations and assistance to new beekeepers. Beekeeping equipment will be provided through registered New Jersey bee supply dealers. The program will be limited to the first 50 qualified participants.
Participants will be encouraged to attend local Beekeepers Association branch meetings for continuing education and outreach. The eight regional branches of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association will assist in mentoring Bee-Ginner participants and providing technical assistance throughout the following year, to ensure that the new beekeepers get a successful start. The Department of Agriculture will provide financial assistance to the New Jersey Beekeepers Association in their mentoring effort.
“Because of this program, several students who attend the Rutgers beekeeping short course will be able to get their start in keeping bees,” said Bob Hughes, President of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association. “Also, with more new beekeepers, there is a chance that some of them will become interested enough to become what we call ‘Commercial Beekeepers,’ who make a living renting bees to crop farmers who require bees for good crop production.”
There has been a drop in beekeepers in New Jersey in the last several years from an estimated four to five thousand to a present estimate of about 2,500.
The New Jersey Agricultural Statistics Service reports that in 2004 there were 12,000 honey-producing bee colonies in the state, which yielded 324,000 pounds of honey. The value of production was $447,000.
The 2006 “Bee-ginning Beekeepers” course will be held April 7 to 9 on Cook College Campus in New Brunswick. To register online, visit http://cookce.rutgers.edu/courses/current/ae0401ca06.html.
For more information, contact Paul Raybold, State Apiarist for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture at (609) 292-5440 or visit the Department’s website at www.state.nj.us/agriculture/plant/bee.htm.