A piece of legislation working its way through the state government may mean some difficulties for New Jersey beekeepers, including in the Montclair area, if it is passed.

The state is considering several new rules that would govern the keeping of bees. One of them would restrict beekeepers from keeping beehives on any piece of residential property smaller than a quarter-acre in size. For commercial properties of a quarter-acre or less, existing beehives would be allowed to stay in place but beekeepers would not be allowed to add new hives.

Eric Hanan is a Glen Ridge resident and the owner of Bee Haven, a company that services beehives in northern New Jersey. Prior to establishing Bee Haven, Hanan was one of the founders of Bee Bold Apiaries. Last year, Hanan oversaw the installation of some box hives at Van Vleck House and Gardens.

Hanan attended a recent meeting of the Essex County Beekeepers Association, where members discussed the proposed new rules. “The general feeling is that the rules are overreaching and not practical,” Hanan said. The new rules would allow a certain number of hives to be kept on residential lots between a quarter-acre and five acres in size, and a larger number on lots larger than five acres. “But the problem is, in Essex County you have to be a very wealthy person to own more than five acres,” he said. “If they even exist.”

New Jersey beekeepers have followed a series of best management practices recommended by experts in the field, Hanan said. One practice recommends having no more than three beehives on a half-acre lot.

“There’s been a big letter-writing push,” Hanan said.

Beekeeping in New Jersey falls under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Agriculture. The Garden State has about 20,000 bee colonies, according to the department’s website, and the beekeeping industry is worth about $7 million. Bees pollinate about $200 million worth of fruits and vegetables each year, the website says.

The New Jersey Beekeepers Association sent a letter to Joseph Zoltowski, the director of the Division of Plant Industry, criticizing the proposed changes as not being scientifically based, hard to understand, and potentially discouraging people from taking up beekeeping as a hobby or small business.

“The draft does not represent the department’s own expertise,” the letter says. “The draft is riddled with misunderstandings of beekeeping practice, bee behavior and bee biology, and reflects an exceedingly poor understanding of municipal land use planning and regulation in New Jersey.”

The bee is New Jersey’s state insect.

The public comment period for the proposed new law ends Friday. For more information, visit the New Jersey Department of Agriculture website.