On Monday, New Jersey Ag Secretary Doug Fisher checked out two new honey bee hives set out by Hilltop Honey beekeeper Joe Lelinho of North Caldwell. To do it, he rode an elevator to the roof of Jersey City's Hyatt Regency Hotel.
The hotel's newest residents – 36,000 honey bees – have an excellent rooftop view of the Hudson River, nearby parks and Manhattan. Strange as it seems, these bees are a good fit. New Jersey's official state insect is a welcome addition to Hyatt's corporate responsibility platform called Hyatt Thrive.
The hives are part of the hotel's initiative to incorporate local honey into the menus at the Vu, its on-site restaurant. Hyatt Jersey City General Manager Terry Dunbar's staff reached out to Lelinho several months ago, establishing a partnership with Hilltop Honey.
"The bees won't interfere with the guest experience," says Dunbar. "And when the honey is harvested, the hotel will offer samples to guests and incorporate it into our restaurant menus."
By season end, the bee population should swell to between 50,000 and 70,000 bees, says Lelinho. Each hive is expected to produce about 100 pounds of honey this first year. He's hoping the project will encourage people in the area to keep bees and to plant vegetable gardens.
"The Hyatt is doing a great service to the community," adds the beekeeper who started in 1996, and now has more than 50 colonies for crop pollination in North Jersey. "Area residents will notice they'll get a higher yield from their trees, plants and fruit thanks to the bees. Many won't even know it's happening."
The Hyatt's hives are an excellent promotion for purchasing local honey, which has potential for helping local allergy sufferers, points out Secretary Fisher. "The honey bee is a vital pollinator of New Jersey crops, such as blueberries, apples, cranberries, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins," he notes. "Having beehives in an urban setting, such as on the roof of the Hyatt, also enhances backyard gardens in the surrounding area."
In 2011, New Jersey had 11,000 bee colonies producing 451,000 pounds of honey worth $1.7 million. The state has about 2,500 registered beekeepers, according to State Apiarist Tim Schuler. Since only 2% are considered commercial beekeepers, many hives are kept in backyards, even in urban areas.
"Honey bees can be kept almost anywhere that flowering plants produce nectar and pollen," reports Schuler. "However, beekeepers in cities need to manage their bees so they don't become a nuisance to neighbors."
Hives can be placed so that bee flight paths don't cross sidewalks, playgrounds or other public areas. If the yard has a water source, that'll also prevent bees from seeking out water at neighbors' swimming pools or water spigots.
Check out the Ag Department guidelines for keeping bees in populated areas at: www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/pi/pdf/beeguidelines.pdf. A beginning beekeeper course is offered through Rutgers University. For more about the course and dates offered, visit www.cpe.rutgers.edu/brochures/intros/bee.html.