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Tanger Outlets joins New Jersey's honeybee helpers, more are needed

Tanger Outlets joins New Jersey's honeybee helpers, more are needed

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Tanger Outlets bee hive

Bee hives sit on the roof of Tanger Outlets The Walk in Atlantic City. As many as 50,000 bees will be housed in each hive by July.

Tanger Outlets The Walk has been a hive of consumer activity since it opened 18 years ago. Now honeybees are shopping for nectar and pollen among the center’s flowers after getting a new home there.

Last month Atlantic City’s destination retail district installed a honeybee colony on one of its rooftops.

This summer, Tanger Outlets will host educational workshops on bees, open to the public. In addition, people can follow on social media as the center’s resident beekeeper visits and cares for the colony.

Among the things people are likely to learn are that beekeeping in New Jersey is a $7 million a year industry, focused on honey production and pollination of farm crops. Hives are deployed to pollinate about $200 million worth of fruits and vegetables each year, and the bees are crucial to South Jersey’s famous blueberries and cranberries.

Honeybees have been decimated for several years by the mysterious colony collapse disorder, which has killed a third to a half of hives annually. Homeowners, businesses and organizations have responded by helping support them.

A few years ago, Hackensack Meridian Health’s Ocean Medical Center in Ocean County created a rooftop bee garden with two colonies.

Tanger Outlet and beekeeping company Alveole chose an especially docile breed of bees for its colony of up to 50,000.

Normal honeybees are semi-domesticated and tolerant of people, seldom bothering to deliver their mild sting. Firefighters in Millville early last month experienced that when they encountered a hive among pallets in a warehouse that was on fire.

Millville Fire Chief Michael Lippincott told the Vineland Daily Journal that it was the first time the company had rescued bees. The company called in beekeepers, who gathered up the hive and relocated it to a farm in Franklin Township.

New Jersey legislators can help bees by reducing the use of certain insecticides lethal to them that are thought to be a cause of colony collapse. Called neonicotinoids, these neurotoxins spread through plants and kill insects by attacking their nerve cells. Unfortunately, bees and other beneficial pollinators are also killed when they feed on contaminated nectar and pollen. Plants can remain toxic for years.

A bill to restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides — neonics for short — passed the state Senate last year and advanced through three Assembly committees since.

While several other states have restricted retail sales of neonics, New Jersey’s bill would also restrict their use by lawn services. Last month, the bill was amended in the Assembly to exempt licensed pesticide applicators from the bill’s restrictions if they get authorization from the state Department of Agriculture.

We’d still like to see the weakened bill passed and signed into law, counting on the state to restrict neonics enough to reduce the harm as the bill intends.

We’re grateful to the people and organizations helping honeybees get through the threat to their existence. Only governments, though, can undo the environmental factors causing that threat.

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