MAHWAH, N.J. – A bear at Campgaw Mountain Reservation in Mahwah scaled the eight-foot deer fence around Fresh Roots Farm and ate three of 20 beehives.
“We thought we’d have a month to get an electric fence put up around the hives, but the bear found them in four days,” said Eric Fuchs-Stengel, executive director of the Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization (MEVO).
“You can’t blame the bear,” he added. “It’s looking for that good honey as well as the protein from the eggs that are in the hive.”
So MEVO moved the bees, temporarily, to its farm at Bergen Community College in Paramus. They’ll be safe there.
In the meantime, Fuchs-Stengel, 24, of Mahwah, and Brett Brandes, 22, of Wyckoff, the group’s apiary manager, are building and repairing bee frames using untreated pine and beeswax. They avoid using plastic, as is common.
“It takes Brett and me hours to put these together, but it’s important because the bees live on these frames inside the hive,” Fuchs-Stengel said. “They build their combs on them. They lay their eggs in them. They put their honey in them.”
Fuchs-Stengel started mobilizing the army of young volunteers that comprises MEVO eight years ago. The group built and runs the two-acre farm; educates; and cleans up polluted sites.
It has been raising bees for four years. In addition to the hives yielding some 100 pounds of honey per season, the bees help pollinate the crops on the farm.
MEVO uses the bees in its educational programs for children, too. It makes presentations at earth fairs, birthday parties, and schools, most notably the Meadowbrook Elementary School in Hillsdale, which invites the group back year after year.
“Most people know honeybees are dying off worldwide,” Fuchs-Stengel said. “We depend on honeybees for one-third of our food system.”
The pivotal insects are threatened by a variety of issues, including neonicotinoid pesticides and the stress of being shipped around the nation and world to pollinate certain crops.
Transporting them is bad for their health, Fuchs-Stengel said. Bees are meant to live in a hive, usually in one location in a forest.
Visit MEVO at www.mevoearth.org .
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