With new law, RF beekeepers take hives elsewhere

For one resident, the move ends 30 years of beekeeping in the village

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By Nona Tepper

After more than 30 years beekeeping in River Forest, Bruce Faland moved his hive out of the village last week, following the passage of an ordinance that reigns in local beekeepers. 

"I don't trust them to regulate it," Faland said of River Forest officials. "I don't think I've put fear in any of my neighbors, but the interpretation I got from the village was anaphylactic, anaphylactic. [The new law is] putting gas on the fire, not burning the flame out." 

Because River Forest's new beekeeping ordinance was born out of a fear of bees — that one sting could send victims into anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening allergic reaction – Faland said he can no longer stand to keep bees in the village. Village President Cathy Adduci denies the legislation was inspired by fear.  

A few days before the village board meeting Nov. 27, Faland shuttered his hive, strapped it to his pick-up and drove it to a buddy's house. Disgusted with local politicians and frustrated by the political process, Faland, 60, moved them before trustees even had a chance to vote on the new ordinance. Their votes didn't matter; he said he knew it would pass.  

Now there's a hole in his backyard in the 300 block of Franklin Avenue where, at the height of the season, 60,000 bees once buzzed. The hive's move follows more than 70 years of beekeeping by the Faland family. 

As a teen, Faland said his father, Edvin, kept many hives in the mountainous southern region of Kristiansand in Norway. When the Germans occupied Norway during World War II, invaders respected Edvin's beekeeping and bought honey from the family, which helped subsidize their income.  

Edvin immigrated to America in 1954, because he wasn't the oldest son and knew he wouldn't inherit the family farm. He came to Chicago, where he found community at the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in the Logan Square neighborhood. 

Along the way, Edvin built a cabin in northwest suburban Antioch. When Faland was 4-years-old, Faland remembers his father catching wild bees and building a primitive hive. 

In 1985, Faland married his wife, Maribeth, a River Forest native. The two lived in a cabin in Antioch and kept bees. Faland also installed a hive at his in-laws house in River Forest, where they buzzed near the intersection of Keystone Avenue and Washington Boulevard. 

When Maribeth and Faland's son, Martin, was born in 1997, the two moved to River Forest so their in-laws could help watch him. Faland installed bee hives at the new house on the 300 block of Franklin Avenue, and painted the hive white. 

When Martin was 5-years-old he wanted to have a lemonade stand in front of the house. Faland said he'd give his son one better: Faland gave Martin jars of honey to sell, and told him to set up near a friend's house by the farmers market. After a few hours, the 5-year-old pocketed $800. 

"Isn't this better than selling lemonade?" Faland asked his son. 

Martin, now 20, has since taken up beekeeping. 

For her part, Adduci said beekeeping has always been illegal in River Forest. While there was never a village ordinance that specifically referenced beekeeping, Adduci said they would have been characterized as a wild animal, although bees are not named as one in any ordinance regarding wildlife. One woman who kept bees before trustees drew up the ordinance was fined $1,500 per day. 

"Before, you were actually breaking the law," Adduci said. "We didn't do much about it, because we're a nice town and we try to get along, but the piece that needs to be understood is that it was not permitted."

Following the new ordinance, Faland has said at least four other local beekeepers have moved their hives to other, undisclosed locations. He declined to name names, and offered only that hives are out of River Forest. Faland said the community's loss of hives will reverberate for many years to come. 

"Beekeeping has been in my family for three generations," he said. "If beekeeping was dangerous, I wouldn't put any of my neighbors in danger. But they're docile enough to have in my backyard." 

At least, they were.

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