About two years ago, Eatontown resident Maria Escalante embarked on a new hobby.
After viewing a show on the Discovery Channel about Beekeeping, Maria’s interest was peaked and she made the decision to try her hand at beekeeping herself. Jump ahead to the Fall of 2012. Maria has five honeybee hives in the backyard of her home that she shares with husband Miguel and her children.
She is one of the estimated 125,000 beekeepers in the United States today. My daughter and I visited with Maria recently and were given an up close look at her hives and the honeybees which inhabit them.
Note that Honeybees are non aggressive which is a good thing since my daughter on occasion gave them a poke. I stood 3-4 feet away as Maria opened the hives and was never threatened by the bees.
Maria's hives produce about twelve gallons of honey a year which Maria gives away for free. In contrast, a commercial for profit beekeeper would have at least 100+ hives with very large opperators numbering thier hives in the thousands. Maria is an active member of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association. Maria is also registered with the State of New Jersey as a beekeeper. She complies with the requirement that her bees are inspected by the state beekeeper each year. Maria has shared her hobby and knowledge of bees with students at a local school and hopes to continue to do so in the future.
Bee pollination is critical to plant and human survival - beeswax and honey are just surplus gifts from this tiny wonder of nature. The domesicated honey bee is the most important pollinator of New Jersey fruits and vegetable crops whether grown on open farmland or urban gardens. Their pollination of flowering plants provides food for the song birds, wildlife and sound reproduction of many of our flowering shrubs and trees as well. Flowering plants need pollinators to feed an entire food chain. There are now an estimated 125,000 amateur beekeepers nationwide, up 25% in the past five years including Michelle Obama whose White House garden includes two bee hives. The honey bee was designated official state bug of New Jersey in 1974.
Maria received a Notice of Violation from the Borough of Eatontown in June of this year stating that she is not permitted to keep bees on her property. Maria did file an appeal and appeared before the Zoning Board however when she came to the meeting she was told her appeal was already denied. She is now under the threat of potentially large fines if she does not remove the bee hives from her property.
The position of the Zoning Board and Zoning Officer is that Eatontown Borough ordinances do not specifically state that bee keeping is a permitted activity on residential property and therefore is not allowed. The Zoning Officer for the Borough also noted that ordinances do not have any similar permitted uses. Therefore it is not viewed as customary or incidental to a residential dwelling. Maria does not intend to give up her fight to keep her bees and noted than most towns in New Jersey permit residential beekeeping. More to come!!!
More information on beekeeping can be found on the website of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association at http://njbeekeepers.org/ and at Bee Source http://www.beesource.com/