Why Honeybees Are Crucial to NJ’s Identity

Our reputation as the Garden State depends on these buzzing creatures.

Beekeeper Frank Mortimer

Frank Mortimer says he became a beekeeper out of a pure love for being around stinging insects. Photo: Dave Moser

New Jersey is the Garden State, but our state insect since 1974, the honeybee, is crucial for us to keep that moniker.

“We have some significant crops that are pollinated by honeybees and rely upon the honeybee to maintain [them], specifically, cranberries and blueberries,” explains Frank Mortimer, certified master beekeeper and former president of the Northeast New Jersey Beekeepers Association.

Though Ridgewood-based Mortimer makes and sells honey and other products, from beeswax candles to lip balm and hand cream, his interest stems from a desire to simply “be around stinging insects” and the wildlife they inhabit.

If you’re interested in beekeeping—a practice that has been growing in New Jersey as of late—Mortimer advises joining one of the 10 branches of the New Jersey State Beekeepers Association. “No matter where you are in the state, if you’re opening up a beehive and you’re holding a frame of bees in your hands, you become one with that nature,” he says.

Non-beekeepers can take steps to benefit our buzzing creatures, too. Mortimer’s tips: Grow some native plants in 3-foot clusters—they’re easier for bees to find. Flowering plants that bloom in August and September are ideal. Also: Try to reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides on your property.

Another reason honeybees represent New Jerseyans well?

“At their heart, they’re sweet,” Mortimer muses. “But if you do something to hurt them, they’re gonna sting.”

So you think you know Jersey? Check out our list of fascinating things you might not know about our state. 

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