The inside buzz on city beekeepers

May 19, 2010

"It is just so hard to believe they can store and remember all the things that they do," said Edie MacDonald.

"They have such a purpose they go about their daily lives, everyone knows what they have to do," said Michelle Kaicener.

Edie MacDonald grew up with bees on her father's farm in Ohio. She moved to the Pullman District in Chicago and has bees in her backyard garden.

"We turned my secret garden into an apiary," said MacDonald.

Edie taught beekeeping classes at Garfield Conservatory for many years. She retired to spend more time with her grandkids and to garden. She also loves mentoring and sharing her knowledge about bees with neighbors.

"It's been very rewarding to share and to learn," said MacDonald.

Bees like the abundance and diversity of plants in the city, which allows honey to be made as early as May. In the country, honey crop begins around mid-June. Pesticide activity is also less frequent here than in the country or suburbs.

"They are finding across the world that bees really do well in an urban environment because there is an opportunity to go to a lot of different plants and flowers," said Michelle Kaicener, who is also a beekeeper.

Kaicener didn't know anything about bees before she started, but had a strong interest in sustainability.

"I'm hoping the bees will help me with pollination services to help my fruits and vegetables get nice and big. And at the same time I give them a safe environment where they can live and I don't spray. I don't use any chemical treatments," said Kaicener.

Another Chicago beekeeper thinks making local honey is the best and most rewarding part of beekeeping.

"You would be surprised how many friends come to your door when they realize you have honey," said Robert Hicks.

Keeping bees through the winter is tough because it is difficult to maintain stable temperature conditions for the bees to survive. However, all that hard work pays off by the summer time.

"A lot of people like to look at a tank of fish. I like to look at my hive," said Hicks.

Some beekeepers even build relationships with their bees.

"I think they know, they know their keeper. It's like farm animals, you know," said MacDonald.

For more information on urban beekeeping and how to start your own hive take a look at clubs like the Cook-DuPage Beekeepers'Association or the Chicago Beekeeping Meet up Group. These groups are a great place to network, socialize, and learn more from local beekeepers.

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