Introducing Debbie Bee and the Buzz on Bees

Ladies and Gentleman, It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you Debbie Bee. She is a local Oak Parker and lover of bees. Today is Debbie’s premier as our bee blogger. She’ll keep us updated and informed on the state of bees in our area, beekeeping tips, and the bees in her own backyard. With that, I give you Debbie Bee (applause)….


With beekeeping now legal in Oak Park, I’m looking forward to having hives in my back yard. Actually, that’s an understatement. I’m really excited, calm as I may appear. Because it’s important to remain calm when stinging insects are involved.

Oak Park’s new ordinance has prospective beekeepers jumping through a lot of hoops: A permit is required, with a $75 fee and at least one inspection; no more than two hives per property; there must be a source of water, and maintenance records must be kept. That doesn’t sound too bad so far. But the ordinance also requires the beekeeper to own the property (renters need not apply); there must be a “flyway barrier”–a six-foot fence or dense shrubbery in front of the hive, with a 10-foot flyway between the hive and the barrier; the hives must be at least five feet from all property lines; and the rest of the beeyard has to be surrounded by a five-foot-tall barrier and have a latched gate with a sign stating, “Warning–Beehives on Property.” All that is a lot to pull together in a few months, not to mention costly.
Added on to that is buying hives, bees, and equipment. It’s quite a commitment. With no guarantee of a good return. Kind of crazy.
I got involved in beekeeping through the program run by the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance. I had read that bees were struggling to survive, so I thought I’d look into becoming a beekeeper. I attended GPC’s first annual “Bee Forum” in 2008, took one of their beekeeping classes, and was added to the volunteer corps just about three years ago.  One of the things that swept me into being involved was that the people I met at the Forum and class were among the nicest I’d ever encountered. There is an ‘esprit de corps’ among beekeepers–we have to trust each other when working beehives together.
Volunteering is a great way to learn, and to be mentored. I was even allowed to manage one hive at Garfield Park, which was interesting, but it ultimately failed (the bees mysteriously starved to death right when the weather turned warm the other week). I’m not sure what happened, but I think the biggest problem was that the hive wasn’t accessible enough. Beginning beekeepers need to be able to keep an eye on things to get used to the rhythm of the colony, and see right away when something seems awry.
So I look forward to having hives that I can monitor by looking out the back window, or going out to sit and observe the bees’ coming and going. Smelling the beeswax. Listening to the pleasant buzz of bees working. And, not least, getting some good, local honey out of the deal.
To do this month: Finish building the hives and frames, and put foundation in the frames; paint the hives and bottom boards; create a level place to put the hives, ten feet from the six-foot fence; put up warning signs; wait to hear when the bees will be delivered (sometime in mid- to late-April)!


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Ben Yoder said,

    I intend to check back regularly with this blog. I am interested in beekeeping though I’ve had no experience to date. I’m not really sure I can site a beehive at my house with all the regulations to cope with. Is there any provision for placing a hive on a balcony or roof?

  2. 2

    Debbie said,

    Hi, Ben,
    The village found it would have been too complicated to write the code with specifics on rooftop hives, so they will consider them on a case-by-case basis. Exactly what that means, I don’t know. Mike Charley at the Health Department is the go-to guy–his number is (708) 358-5489 or email him at with specific questions. Good luck, and let us know what you find out!

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