Monday, December 5, 2011

Goodbye to Fillmore Apiary

In 2004 when we started our co-op, we had no idea how long we might be allowed to keep bees on the property along West Fillmore St in Chicago, perhaps 2 or 3 years at best. It has been our great pleasure to have had an apiary and community farm there for 8 full years. When we started, we couldn’t have have imagined what a rich experience it would be.

An abandoned industrial remnant reverted to prairie wherever the concrete wasn’t, we found ourselves surrounded by nature in the middle of Chicago. It is easy to describe the place in terms of size and location but much harder to describe the atmosphere. What we made there was much more than honey. We made friends. 
Beekeeping Class June 2011

With the help of The North Lawndale Greening Committee, we made a community farm for anyone who wanted to join. We made a gathering place. We made a place for learning about bees, about nature and about ourselves.

Sadly, our time there is almost up. The property has been sold and we must move out in late Winter of 2012. We can’t hope to find another place a large as Fillmore Apiary so we are looking for 3 or so smaller locations. We have a few possibilities lined up but nothing is certain. We really want to stay in the North Lawndale community but know this may not be possible.

We will miss the apiary on Fillmore so much but can be happy that the friends we made because of it will still be with us. In looking back on this past year, I made a list of things we did in 2011.

  • Conducted tours of the apiary for school groups and the public.
  • Gave beekeeping presentations at the Power House High School, Nature Museum, College of Dupage, University of Chicago Hillel and others.
  • Continued hosting a community farm at the apiary in partnership with the North Lawndale Greening Committee & others
  • Tended 50 hives and sold honey and products at 2 Farmer markets from July to the present
  • Continued to raise Illinois Honeybee queens.
  • Continued teaching beekeeping to Master Gardeners at the Museum of Science and Industry, Smart Home Exhibit.
  • Taught beekeeping to 50 people through Winter classes at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum.
  • Employment in beekeeping skills for neighbors and volunteers over the past 8 years.
  • Gave advice on beekeeping to members of the public through our website blog and email contacts.
  • Tended 8 hives on City of Chicago Buildings and one at the Lurie Garden, Millennium Park.
  • Continued the preSERVE* partnership with Slow Food Chicago, Neighborspace and the North Lawndale Greening Committee, growing Sweet Potatoes, Black-eyed and Crowder Peas on a former vacant lot. (12th Place & Central Park Ave.)
  • Hosted 2 events at the apiary open to the public; Sweet Summer Solstice and TomatoFest

As a community based organization, we have always operated on the slimmest of shoestrings so paying for the costs of moving and relocation will be difficult to handle. Our “rent” for the past 8 years has been 12 dollars a year thanks to the generosity of the developer, Mark Ross. We have always supported our work with sales of our honey and other products but we find ourselves needing to raise money to cover moving expenses both expected and unexpected. We will probably have to pay for fencing any property without it. That could run into thousands of dollars. So we have to raise money now. Our timeline is short.

If you have an interest in helping out financially send us a note using the “Contact Us” link at the top of this page.

If you would like to share your memories of Fillmore Apiary, leave them in the comments section of this post.

If you have pictures to share visit and add your pictures or video.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sweet Summer Solstice 2011

Come on out and visit us on Friday June 24th for the most affordable fundraiser in Chicago. For $15 and a potluck dish to share, you get to party outdoors on one of the longest evenings of the year at our apiary on Fillmore St.
If you have never visited our apiary, this year is the year to come out to the Solstice potluck. The food is always excellent, there is plenty of beer and wine and the apiary is pretty spectacular.

Slow Food Chicago has sponsored and coordinated this event for us for the last 3 years and everyone who comes has a great time. You can buy tickets and get details on the Slow Food Chicago website.

If you take a look at the satellite map, you can see how large the space is. Plenty of room for a big party!

We will be giving tours of the beehives and community farm and will have honey, candles and more for sale.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Live Bees Rush!

5 Queens delivered from Southern Illinois today. Priority small flat rate boxes are perfect for this. The black cap on the end of the queen cage holds sugar candy for the bees to eat.

The Queen is on the right. She is marked with a white dot and shipped with four attendants who take care of her during the trip. The dot will make it a little easier to find her inside the hive.

Live bees attract attention.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Essential Equipment for Starting a Beehive Part Two

After the hive is set up a beekeeper will need a few tools and bits of clothing in order to manage the hive.

1. Hive Tool: It would be impossible to inspect a beehive without a hive tool. That is the beekeeper name for a pry bar. It is used to open and inspect hives, and scrape wax and propolis out of the hive. It can be an emergency hammer, scrape bee stingers off skin and pull nails. You can’t keep bees without one.

2. Smoker: It is a misnomer to say that using smoke “calms” the bees. That isn’t what happens. The smoke distracts the bees, allowing the beekeeper to make an inspection or harvest frames of honey. It is basically a metal can with a bellows and a spout attached to it. Beekeepers get to start a fire inside it, close the lid  and then use the smoke to manage the bees.

3. Gloves: Not all beekeepers use gloves but since that is where a beekeeper is most likely to get stung, it might pay to wear some. There are different kinds made with different materials but any good fitting sturdy pair of gloves will work.

4. Hat and Veil: More important than gloves is a  hat and veil. A veil is just a mesh screen that keeps the bees away from your head. You may be tempted on a sunny day when the bees are busy, to work your hive without a veil. That is the day a guard bee will go right for your face.

5. Frame spacer: This tool makes it easy to properly space the frames of honey or brood inside the hive. Proper spacing is very important because if frames are placed to close together or far apart, the bees will either close the gap or build more comb in between the frames. While this is perfectly logical from a bee’s perspective,  it makes working a hive more time consuming and messy for the beekeeper.

6. Bee brush: This brush has long soft bristles and is used when a beekeeper is harvesting frames of honey. A frame of honey is pulled up out of the hive and the bees are gently brushed off, back into the hive, Then the beekeeper quickly hides the frame of honey in a separate box with a lid so the bees can’t get at it again.

7. Feeder: When a new package of bees is installed, they go into an empty hive with no food. A feeder is used to supply sugar syrup until there is enough natural forage for the bees to bring back to the hive to make into honey.

8. Beekeeping book or Beekeeper:  Everyone starting out in beekeeping needs a good source of information. Beekeeping is fascinating but can be very confusing almost all the time.
A good book or experienced beekeeper are invaluable.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Essential Equipment for Starting a Beehive Part One

Hives with all medium boxes.
Top cover is raised for extra ventilation.

This is the time of year when beekeepers order new equipment and supplies for the coming beekeeping season. If you are just starting beekeeping this year the numbers and variety of equipment  available can get pretty confusing. So here is a list of basics and why you will need them.

1. Hive boxes (also called supers): These come in three sizes - deep, medium and shallow. Traditionally, 2 deep boxes have been used as brood chambers with 3 or 4 or more boxes (medium or shallow) on top as needed for honey storage.  There is actually no hard and fast rule here. Many beekeepers use all medium boxes throughout the hive. This helps reduce the weight of each box for lifting. If you have back problems you could even use shallow boxes all throughout the hive. So, 6 boxes as a minimum for deep and medium. More if you wanted to use only shallow boxes.  (Top bar hives are an alternative but they deserve a blog post on their own.) You will only need two boxes to start out, adding boxes (supers) as needed for extra room and honey storage.

2. Frames and Foundation: For each box you have for your hive, you will need 10 wooden frames that fit that box and foundation for the frames. Foundation is intended to give the bees a head start on their comb building. You can buy all beeswax foundation or plastic foundation with a thin coat of beeswax applied to it. Alternatively, you can provide empty frames and let the bees build their comb from scratch but that can be a bit tricky and it takes the bees longer to get established.

3.Top Cover and Inner Cover: There are two covers for a hive that are used together. The inner cover goes directly on top of the top box of your hive and has a hole in the center. It helps to both ventilate and insulate the hive. The top cover is usually called a telescoping cover. It is like the lid of a box and is most often covered in galvanized metal which makes it waterproof, keeping the bees protected from the elements.

4. Bottom Board and Hive Stand: The last two parts of a beehive. The hive rests directly on top of the bottom board. Traditionally these are made of solid wood but screened bottom boards have become an important alternative. Screened bottom boards are a great help for ventilating the hive in Summer and for control of Varroa mites. The hive stand can be made of anything solid enough to support the weight of a full beehive. Wooden hive stands are available for sale but bricks, concrete blocks or found lumber are just as good. What is important to remember is that the hive needs to be at least 6 inches off the ground.

5. Entrance Reducer:  There is a space between the bottom board and the bottom box of the hive where the bees enter and leave. Depending on the time of year, a small piece of wood with different sized holes cut out of it is used to enlarge or reduce the size of the hive entrance.

So, that is part one of the basic list of necessary equipment for starting a beehive.