TRENTON — A package of bills sponsored by Assemblymen Ron Dancer and Parker Space protecting the state’s declining bee population continues to advance.

The bills received Assembly approval on June 22.

The first resolution creates a task force to develop a plan to promote the health of pollinators. The second resolution encourages homeowners to plant native plants that support bee populations, and bill A4606 provides a habitat for native bees and other pollinators in parks and forests.

Dancer and Space said protecting the state’s 20,000 bee colonies, which contribute to the production of nearly $200 million worth of fruits and vegetables annually, is vital to New Jersey’s economy and food chain.

“The key to a successful agriculture industry is a healthy bee industry yet half of the state’s honeybees are dying each year,” said Dancer (R-Ocean). “Their deaths are significantly outpacing the national average. This task force and these other measures are needed now more than ever.”

“Bees pollinate a number of crops our state is known for, including blueberries, cranberries, tomatoes and peppers,” said Space whose family is well-known for its long-standing agricultural commitment in Sussex County that spans eight generations. “We need to do whatever is necessary to provide bees with a healthy environment for nesting. New Jersey’s state parks and forests provide the perfect habitat. These bills will help protect our declining bee population.”

According to a recent newspaper article, New Jersey honeybees are dying at a pace much higher than the national average. This year, 41 percent have died; last year, 53 percent and, in 2013, 48 percent. Scientists speculate a parasite is primarily responsible.