(The Center Square) – A new survey has found that beekeeping is one of the most popular alternative hobbies in Illinois.
In Illinois, beekeeping beat out aquarium keeping, falconry, lapidary and metal detecting, according to ModestFish.com.
Angie Kuehl, a beekeeper of 15 years who lives outside Carbondale, warns all would-be beekeepers that it is easy to get addicted to the hobby.
“It’s great for people looking to relieve some stress. It gets you outdoors. It’s a mystical, magical world, for sure,” Kuehl said.
There’s a lot more to beekeeping than buying some bees and putting them in a box in the backyard, she said.
“You think you are learning about bees, but you are learning about when the maple trees bloom for the first time in the spring, and all about flowers and the environment,” she said.
The work can be hot and dirty. Expect frustration. It is easy to get discouraged, Kuehl said.
“Bees teach you a lot of patience. And you learn a lot from your failures,” she said.
Kuehl recommends getting a mentor at a local beekeeping club or through the local University of Illinois agriculture extension office. Watching a YouTube video can’t convey what it feels like to be out in July in a full veil and bodysuit, lifting a 100-pound box of honey, she said.
Kuehl is picky about where she puts her hives. Bees roam in a 3-mile radius from their hive, so if a neighbor has a mosquito spraying service, that puts the bees at risk. Kuehl’s property is not far from the outskirts of the Shawnee National Forest, so she feels lucky. But bees can thrive anywhere that there are plants and water, she said.
Kuehl’s friend Jana Kinsman, an avid cyclist, started Bike A Bee in Chicago in 2011, after taking a winter beekeeping class with the Chicago Honey Co-op. Now Kinsman has bee hives at community gardens and schools all over Chicago. Bee hives can thrive on urban roofs, Kuehl said.
Kuehl got her first taste of bee tending when her father put two hives in their yard because he had heard that eating local honey might help his wife with her pollen allergies. Kuehl said it did.
“Start small so that you don’t get overwhelmed,” she advised new beekeepers.
Beekeeping sparks lifelong learning, Kuehl said.
“I’ve been doing this 15 years and I learn something new every day,” she said.
To become a certified beekeeper in Illinois requires completion of a beekeeping course approved by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which has courses covering topics such as bee biology, hive management, and honey production.
For information and lists of local clubs, contact the Illinois State Beekeeping Association.