As honeybees drop dead in droves, city–dwellers-turned-beekeepers swarm to save them.
In the popular beekeeping class at the Garfield Park Conservatory (300 N Central Park Ave, 312-746-5100; $70), bee specialist Julio Tuma (who recently moved to New York) advises students to educate their neighbors about the insects and, most important, bribe them with gifts of honey. This usually does the trick in placating the frightened or skeptical.
But many Chicago apiarists prefer flying under the radar, assuming they’ll be blamed for stings, even though honeybees are nonaggressive and sting only when their hive is invaded or if caught in clothes or hair. Savvy city beekeepers keep a low profile by taking precautions like putting water near the hive. Bees congregate at the nearest water source, and if you don’t provide one, the closest thing is often a dog dish. Result: wigged-out neighbors.
Quinn-Brauner, the art installer, set up his hive in his parents’ Edgewater backyard. Not wanting to be a nuisance, he filled a kiddie pool with water, and tossed in bobbing corks to serve as bee rafts. Still, a neighbor complained the bees were buzzing around his dogs, so Quinn-Brauner relocated his brightly painted hives to the rooftop.
Despite his care and the fact that his bees survived their first winter, Quinn-Brauner found a dead-out this year. And he’s not alone. Pilsen Beekeepers Association president Donna Oppolo’s colonies in a community garden along railroad tracks near South Sangamon Street froze to death, perhaps beneath three feet of February “thundersnow,” or maybe because vandals propped open the lids.