CHICAGO (WLS) -- Millions of bees arrived in Chicago on Wednesday as part of the annual spring ritual at the Belmont Feed & Seed in the Avondale neighborhood.
It was Bee Day at the family store where co-owner Lidia Andronic spent all day helping local beekeepers pick up their hives.
"We bring our bees in and distribute the packages to, I don't know, about 150 people altogether," Andronic said. "Just local mini-farmers, they take one package, two packages, five packages."
Belmont Feed and Seed distributes around 300 packages, each filled with a hive of 8,000-12,000 bees.
The store opened in 1989 as a club and shop for pigeon racers in the Chicago area. But when pigeon racing was banned in the city around 15 years ago, the store needed to open its scope to more animals. These days, they specialize in bees, chickens, pigeons, and other exotic birds.
The Andronic family has held their annual Bee Day for eight years, and they've seen a dramatic increase in the number of beekeepers they serve. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the number of registered beehives in Cook County has more than quintupled in the past 30 years. As of 2017, the department reported 446 active registered beekeepers and over 1,700 bee colonies.
"There's a lot of people in the Chicago area which keep a beehive for pollination, for just the love of helping the bees thrive," Andronic said.
Millions of bees delivered to Chicago feed store
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