NJ residents rally behind bees

    With spring flowers beginning to bloom, pollination season is starting for bees — if they made it through the winter.

    New Jersey’s bee populations have suffered in recent years from colony collapse disorder. Residents of the Garden State are rallying to help the insects make a come-back. WHYY’s health and science reporter Kerry Grens has more. (Photo: Todd Vachon)

    Bees are vital members of New Jersey’s agriculture — they pollinate blueberry, cranberry and other crops. Two years ago, 40% of them died over the winter. Beekeeper Ray Markley lost a third of his colonies this year. But he says media reports of bee deaths since 2006 have made more people interested in beekeeping.

    Markley: It was incredible. I went to a beekeeping meeting last Saturday and I was amazed. There were probably 50-60 people there. 10 years ago we were lucky if we got 10 to a meeting.

    The New Jersey Beekeepers Association has grown 45% this year. Bee deaths have also impacted the business of beekeeping. Dennis Wright is the owner of Fruitwood Apiaries. His company brings bees to blueberry and cranberry farms in New Jersey to pollinate crops.

    Wright: It’s increased my business, yeah. We’re having a lot more farmers call for pollination simply because a lot of beekeepers have lost a lot of bees in New Jersey.

    He says business has increased 30-40% in the last three years. Ray Markley says most of the new members only keep a small number of bees; not enough to make up for the deaths. But it’s a start. The state agriculture department is optimistic bee numbers this winter are better than last year. A discussion of colony collapse disorder continues in Philadelphia on Saturday [3/28] at the Wagner Free Institute of Science.

    Listen to the radio report:

    [audio:sci20090327bees.mp3]

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