Commonly Asked Questions

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Why should I become a beekeeper?
Beekeeping is an extremely rewarding hobby and honeybee importance is at its utmost highest. With the decline in populations throughout the past decades, urban beekeepers have taken the mantle as honeybee protectors and advocates. Not only does beekeeping grant you the opportunity to see these amazing creatures in action working together as a single unit, but you also benefit from their main product- honey! They also provide extra pollination in your local area.

Is it legal to have hives in Chicago?
Absolutely! The City of Chicago currently has no regulations regarding beekeeping in backyards or rooftops for up to 5 hives, but if a neighbor complains a hive can be declared a public nuisance and the beekeeper will be forced to remove it. You only need to register your hives in Illinois. It is free and the form can be downloaded here. Check with your local authorities for other localities.

How do I start beekeeping?
Learn! Join your local beekeeping association, read beekeeping books, take one of our classes, and check out our beekeeping resources. Once you know the basics, you will need to invest in equipment which can run anywhere from $400 to $800, but once you have the initial gear, subsequent hives are cheaper. You must be prepared to put in about an hour, give or take, each week for maintaining your hive.

Will I get stung?
Being a beekeeper, being stung comes with the job title. However, it isn't as much as you would think. Generally if you work carefully, use smoke, avoid jostling the hive, don't inspect hives in bad weather (e.i. cold, windy, rainy) and take certain precautions, most stings can be avoided. Eventually you will get to the point of where you won't feel the need to put on the huge suit, gloves, and mask, like us (most of the time). Also, after a few stings they aren't as painful as the first ones.

How do I treat bee stings?
Immidiately upon sting, remove the stinger and move away from the bees. Wash the area with soap and water and apply a cold compress to ease swelling. For pain, take an over-the-counter painkiller like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. For itchiness, take an antihistamine. If you have a more moderate reaction (itching,swelling) take an antihistamine like Benadryl and apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to ease redness, itching or swelling. Avoid itching! If reaction is severe (difficulty breathing, wheezing, feeling dizzy/faint, hives (not just at sting site) immidiately call 911. If you are out in a bee yard and need a quick pain reliever, find a plantain (very common weed), chew up a leaf, and apply to sting site to reduce redness, itching, pain and stinging.

What is the best style of beekeeping?
There is NO "right" way to keep bees. Beekeeping practices have been going on for tens of thousands of years, and throughout that time best practicing beekeeping methods have waxed and waned. Find what works for you, learn from mistakes and repeat successes. Some people take a more minimalist approach while others are more proactive. Some people stick to natural methods for pest control (we hope you do too!), others resort to chemicals. Figure out what works for you and learn from others at your local beekeeping associations!

How do you tell a honeybee from wasps and hornets?
Honeybees are generally a more pale, golden yellow, wasps and horneys are usually much more neon yellow. Honeybees also tend to have a lot more fur on their bodies, even on their eyes! Finally, wasps and hornets are generally more segmented whereas honeybees have a more round body.