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What's the Latest Buzz on the Beekeeping Trend?

By JoshMogerman in News on Jul 31, 2011 8:00PM

Honeybee eggs [BeesinFrance]
Beekeeping has always had a sweet spot in Chicago. But the Daley administration's embrace of green roofs, planted medians and flashy parks kicked it up a notch by providing our pollinating pals a pretty diverse menu of native flowers. And there are plenty of bees taking advantage all over town with high-profile hives on top of City Hall, at both zoos, on the west side in the Garfield Park Conservatory and on the south side at the Chicago Honey Co-op’s North Lawndale digs. Heck, the President is even making beer from the honey collected from hives in the White House Garden (Kenwood East).

All of this has bee researchers excited as the urban diet of largely pesticide-free, native flowers is important to bee health -- and could help stave off some of the stressors that are thought to contribute to the mysterious disappearance of bees in states around the country. Colony Collapse Disorder has not hit Illinois yet, but healthy urban colonies could be important to the protection of a species that is responsible for pollinating one out of every three bites in the typical American diet. While the Land of Lincoln’s soybean and corn crops’ aren’t beholden to bees, Peoria’s pumpkin crop is one of the biggest in the nation -- with 90% of the canned orange gourds coming from within 60 miles of town (all thanks to the work of bees). Lincoln Park Zoo is one of many organizations trying to get to the heart of CCD, but in the meantime, City Hall’s colony certainly seem healthy:

“Already this season, one hive has produced 200 pounds of surplus honey, which is really a huge amount of honey,” beekeeper Michael Thompson [told AP] after checking the hives one July morning. “The state average is 40 pounds of surplus honey per hive.”
Daley apparently loved handing out little jars of City of Chicago honey (bees have clout these days) and there are more private hives popping up all over town. Classes at the Honey Co-Op and Garfield Park are training a new generation of city beekeepers in Chicago where hives are legal all over town. According to the AP, that helps fuel an increasingly young urban beekeeping movement. But its not limited to the city. A battle has erupted to legalize the practice in Oak Park that could bring more bees to the burbs.