LETTER – Honey Bees could use a hand

Tomorrow is National Honey Bee Day, and people across the nation will be planting wildflowers to support the honey bee population. Assemblyman Ron Dancer, who sponsors several bills to protect the pollinators that are crucial to our food supply, urged residents to do their part to help save the bees.

“Bees are the key to our food chain. Nationally, bees are dying off at an alarming rate, and the loss has been more in New Jersey, where almost half the bees have succumbed in recent years,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “Without bees working behind the scenes, farmers cannot produce many of the fruits and vegetables we need and want. National Honey Bee Day reminds us of the importance of bees. I encourage people plant wildflowers and naturalize part of the landscape as a haven for honey bees, butterflies and other pollinators.”

Feed a Bee, a $500,000 effort sponsored by the Bayer Bee Care program, will facilitate the planting of thousands of wildflowers at sites from New York to California to increase bee habitats in every state by the end of 2018. The 3-year-old program has distributed more than 3 billion wildflower seeds and awarded grants for more than 50 projects this year.

National Honey Bee Day was initiated by beekeepers to build awareness of the bee industry. It was established in 2010 by a proclamation from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Dancer noted that state’s 20,000 bee colonies represent a $7 million industry that contributes to the annual production of nearly $200 million worth of fruits and vegetables, including Garden State favorites blueberries, cranberries, tomatoes and peppers.

Dancer sponsors a series of bills to protect bees:

— AR216 encourages homeowners to plant native plants that support bee populations

— A4606 provides habitats for native bee and pollinators in state parks and forests

— AJR144 creates the Healthy Pollinators Task Force to develop a plan to protecting and strengthening the health of pollinator populations

— A3403 designates the common eastern bumble bee as the state native pollinator

The General Assembly approved AR216, A4606 and AJR144 in June.