Melissa Elsmo

Earlier this year six-thousand honey bees were given a home on the rooftop over the southern entrance of Village Hall. Today, the duo of hives house upwards of 60,000 honey bees and the colonies produced a substantial first honey harvest.

Mindy Agnew, sustainability coordinator at Village Hall, and Village Forestry Superintendent, Rob Sproule, decided to donate their substantial honey haul (in excess of 50 pounds) to the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry earlier this month.

“A donation like this sets a good precedent for these harvests,” says Agnew of the food pantry donation, “because this honey is created in our village and went directly to a nutrition-focused program in the village.”

“This was such a gift for the pantry;” says Teri Miller, Director of Development, at the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry, “you’d have to go to a specialty store to purchase local honey and it would be very expensive; the fact it was available to our clients is special.”

Food pantry nutritionists were on hand to discuss the health benefits of consuming local, all-natural honey and pantry clients were quick to collect their portions. The honey from the village apiaries came to in 200 individual  jars so every client visiting the pantry was able to take some home. Additionally some pantry clients were well aware of the bee keeping efforts in the village and were anxious to taste the local honey.

The Village Hall honey bees flit from flower-to-flower throughout the community making their honey uniquely Oak Park flavored. Pesticides and mites are having an effect honey bees and their numbers are declining nationally. Sproule and Agnew are leading the charge to “help the bees help us.”

They suggest Oak Parkers can support the Village’s bee colonies by planting pollinator friendly gardens. Welcoming honey bees in your yard is as simple as including native plants like bee balm, cone flowers, or black eyed susans in your landscape plans. Don’t forget, docile honey bees get a bad rap thanks to more aggressive wasps and yellow jackets; honey bees only sting if they feel threatened.

Caught the bee-keeping buzz? Oak Park home owners can establish up to two honey bee colonies as long as the apiaries meet specific code requirements. For more information on beekeeping in Oak Park, call 708.358.5480 or email health@oak-park.us.

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