Monmouth County Legislator Looks for Ways To Bring Back Bees

Source: Two River Times

Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-11), the chairman of the Assembly agriculture and natural resources committee, supports giving closed landfills a second life as bee pollinator habitats.

“We need to have pollinators for farming,” Houghtaling said after touring the Millstone farm of small commercial beekeepers Angelo and Anna Trapani. “So we have to create that environment and we’re losing environment all the time.”

Anna Trapani said she and her husband have about 300 colonies of bees, of roughly 60,000 bees or more per colony, that produce honey and work as pollinators on farms and orchards in Mercer, Ocean, Monmouth, Somerset and Middlesex counties. It’s part of a family tradition that was passed down from her grandfather. Yet she said being a beekeeper today is “tough,” as she lost about 74 bee colonies during a span from fall 2018 to this past spring.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency reported that beekeepers lost 30 to 90 percent of their hives during the winter of 2006-07. Since then, there has been continued loss of bee hives in high numbers nationally.

“The challenge is we’re destroying habitat,” said beekeeper Geff Vitale, of Kingwood in Hunterdon County. Dressed in a yellow shirt with the image of a bee on it, he came a meeting of the Central Jersey Beekeepers Association in Freehold.

Peter Ptak, of Ptak’s Apiary in Red Bank, keeps bees as a hobby; he is a pilot full-time. But his bees make anywhere from 600 to 1,000 pounds of honey a year. Ptak said that in one year, he lost 75 percent of his hives.

Trapani feels one big cause is mites, small bugs that feed off bees in their formative stages and cause deformities. “So when that bee is born, the mouth might be deformed, the wings might be deformed and they’ll just die,” Trapani said. “The hive will dwindle.”

A bill that he and others have sponsored would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to create a program encouraging “the owner or operator” of such landfills to turn them “into habitat that supports animal pollinators using native plants where possible,” the proposed legislation reads in part. Another bill would require the state DEP to start a “leasing program” of state-owned lands for either private or public entities willing to manage them for pollinator habitat.

According to the federal Department of Agriculture, honeybees pollinate more than 100 types of crops in North America, making them critical for the nation’s food supply.

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