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When Barack Obama visited Chicago last week, the outgoing mayor—an urban naturalist named Richard M. Daley—talked to him about some ideas he was kicking around for retirement, including beekeeping.
Beekeeping? During his tenure, Daley was moved to install a City Hall rooftop garden that included beehives, whose presence threatened him with more of a sting than the City Council ever did (rim shot!). Anyway, here are a few tips for apiarists interested in following in Daley's footsteps:
1. Bee housing uses frames of sheets imprinted with hexagonal shapes to mimic a hive. Install near flowering plants.
2. Buy an established colony from a beekeeper. You can also get them packaged by mail order! Gutsier 'keepers can catch a swarm and install in the hive in the same manner as packaged bees. The queen goes in separately.
3. Tips for calming bees: spraying the hive with a sugar syrup keeps them occupied, and you can reduce their anxiety by smoking grass (works for us, too), straw, or burlap near the hive.
Look for classes on beekeeping at the Chicago Honey Co-op, which also offers apiary tours and a CSA; see chicagohoneycoop.com.