Bees are new exhibit at Cape May County Zoo

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Bees are new exhibit at Cape May County Zoo

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE - People crowded around a display of bees at the Cape May County Zoo on Friday morning.

Standing behind a white fence inside the zoo’s aviary, Janet Katz of North Jersey pointed out the queen among what she estimated were about 15,000 bees in the hive.

One woman seemed impressed that Katz could tell the queen from the other insects behind the glass.

Katz, who is the president of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, said in an interview that the queen is fatter than the rest of the bees. Katz has been into beekeeping for 25 years.

The observation bee hive is the newest exhibit at the county zoo, which officially opened Sept. 6 at the zoo’s aviary.

The New Jersey Bee Keepers Association donated the hive, which was installed around the end of June. The aviary is also home to several species of birds.

Katz indicated that people have taken an interest in bees, and a need exists for the public learn to more about them. One of the goals of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association is to help the growth of honey bees in New Jersey through education.

During a grand-opening ceremony Friday at the zoo, state secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher said the value of bees has led to an increased interest in beekeeping.

Visitors will be able to see how the queen acts and how long of a distance they forage for food by looking at the zoo exhibit, he indicated.

Visitors get a closeup look at the hive through a clear barrier. The bees can get outside to forage for pollen through a tube.

Bees pollinate crops and farmers rely on bees for their harvests, Fisher said.

Honeybees account for 80 percent of all insect pollination and one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat is the result of pollination by honey bees, according to information from the county.

Honey bees pollinate apples, blueberries, cranberries, cucumbers, pumpkins, raspberries, squash, strawberries and watermelon.

Many people tend to group bees with other stinging insects, like hornets, yellow jackets and other wasps, Katz said. But they are different, she said.

They’re protective of the hives, so they sting, Katz said.

“In many cases, the honey bee gets a bum wrap,” she said.

Cape May County Freeholder Gerald Thornton said he would not have thought of putting bee hive at the county zoo, a place he called the diamond of the county.

The bee display was kept at the Agricultural Museum of New Jersey at Rutgers in New Brunswick but that facility was shut down because financial woes. Cape May County took on the exhibit earlier this summer.

“And bees are just delightful creatures,” Fisher said.

The county zoo has more than 500 animals and more than 250 different on 85-wooded acres inside the Cape May County Park at 707 Route 9 North in Cape May Court House. The zoo is open, weather permitting, 364 days a year, except Christmas. The zoo is open from 10 a.m. until 4:45 p.m.

For more information, call Mike Laffey, director of Cape May County Park, at 465-5271.

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