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Eatontown Resident's Hobby: Beekeeping

Two years ago, Maria Escalante embarked on a new hobby. After viewing a show on the Discovery Channel about Beekeeping, Maria’s interest was peaked. Maria now has five honeybee hives.

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/

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Duo Maxwell November 18, 2012 at 11:54 AM
I don't think I would like it if my neighbor owned them. You can see a few homes behind the fence.
Itchy Foot Moe November 18, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Oddly enough, if you didn't red about your neighbor having them, you wouldn't probably even know. Leave it to those pinheads in the zoning board to make something natural and the most NEEDED insect for Human survival "illegal". They going to go door to door and inspect for naturally occurring hives and start fining residents too? How ironic that Eatontown now touts it's new Farmer's Market on the weekends at Wampum Lake as one of the new attractions to try and bring people downtown after the Fort shuttered when they rate the insect that makes it even possible insect non grata in town.
Jersey Girl November 18, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Maria spoke to her neighbors to let them know the bees were there to address any issues or concerns. The neighbors thought it was interesting and had no problems. They even said that their gardens are doing better. When people find out Maria has bees in her yard they are surprised because they cant' tell they're there.
Carolyn N November 18, 2012 at 05:56 PM
I've seen the honeybee exhibit Maria brought to the local elementary school. It was wonderful to watch the delight of the school children as Maria and her daughter explained about the life of honeybees and shared the important contributions that they make. In a world where so much of a child's time is now spent on video games and computers seeing an interest in nature is refreshing. It is unfortunate that an individual (or individuals) that did not gather all the facts on these helpful creatures have turned an admiral pursuit into a zoning issue.
Duo Maxwell November 18, 2012 at 07:30 PM
And yet the Borough of Eatontown found out. Someone lied.
Caroline Krueger November 18, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Bees, and especially bees pollination, are an integral part of our ecosystem! Maria is doing a great thing by keeping bees!! I hope everything turns out ok!
My Two Cents November 19, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Interesting of Eatontown to decide that if there is no ordinance for beekeeping and no ordinance against beekeeping then it's illegal???? What's up with that? That opens a big can of worms for the residence of Eatontown. The residence of Eatontown better start making sure everything they do has an ordinance for it, otherwise they are breaking the law.
Kathy Agresto November 19, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I think that bees contribute to our environment and I give Maria credit for doing what she is doing. They are hurting no one. The zoning board should police the the business' on Main St . We have a Head Shop and soon to have a Tattoo Parlor on the Main corridor in Eatontown. Is this part of our Pride in Eatontown and revitalization plan. Kathy Agresto
Bob English November 24, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Thank you to everyone for your comments. Couple of things.....out of fairness to the Zoning Board, note that they only interpret ordinances/permitted uses that are already on the books. With that said, I do expect that the topic of Residential Beekeeping in Eatontown to be an item for discussion on a Mayor/Council Workshop Agenda early in 2013.

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