Debbie B. Buzzes in for May

Bees never come when the suppliers say they will. Almost always, the delivery date is two to three weeks later than promised. My bees were first supposed to come April 25–now, due to weather and scheduling issues, they are supposed to become part of the Oak Park landscape on May 12.

I’ve been putting this waiting period to good use–it’s given me plenty of time to talk bees with the locals.

Green Home Experts’ own Maria Onesto Moran, who is doing a wonderful job as my agent, arranged for me to appear as a beekeeper at Oak Park’s Earth Fest, and at two screenings of ‘Queen of the Sun’ during the One Earth Film Fest. At all three events, visitors and viewers impressed me with their knowledge and interest in beekeeping. Along with insightful comments and information.

Some of the buzz I’ve picked up lately:

1. There have long been feral beehives in trees in Oak Park.

2. The Chicago Honey Co-op has established a beeyard with more than 20 hives within four blocks of Oak Park.

3. Beekeeping supplies are now available in Chicago at Belmont Feed & Seed, and at Christy Webber Landscapes Farm & Garden Center.

4. Some local animal shelters have become overwhelmed with chickens–because people have been buying chickens without really knowing what they’re getting into, and decide it’s for the birds just as fast. I worry–will there be a rash of similarly feckless beekeepers?

5. The Illinois Department of Agriculture has let the urban beekeeping community know that, due to this year’s early spring, the Ag Dept. has been getting way more calls than usual about bee-swarm removal, and also, a lot more calls from residents of Chicago saying they are uncomfortable with their neighbors keeping beehives. And some said, when they complained to their neighbors, the beekeepers refused to work with them on a solution.

Too many complaints will put Chicago’s unrestricted beekeeping at risk.

This has started area beekeepers thinking that we need to be a lot more proactive. While we already swarm ‘green’ events and talk passionately to anyone who’ll listen about the benefits of honeybees, we need to find a way to reach people who have never even thought about where honey comes from, much less about how pollination works. And we would like to reach out to prospective and new beekeepers. If anyone reading this would like a beeyard tour or to be mentored, please speak up!

To do this month: Install bees!!! Feed with sugar syrup and pollen patties to keep the bees going while they produce wax–one flake at a time from a gland in their abdomens–to make comb to store nectar and pollen. Inspect the hive within one week and every 1-2 weeks after that, looking for the queen, or at least making sure she’s laying eggs.

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