The Lurie Garden Bee Hives
So guess what? Judy and I were invited to see the bee hives at the Lurie Garden. We visited during our lunch break last week.
When we got to garden, we saw that the River of Salvia was foreshadowed by a River of Grape Hyacinthis.
Funny how we had never noticed this before. They Grape Hyacinths were nicely set off by a bordering mass of white tulips.
On the boardwalk we ran into Jo ana Kubiak, the Lurie’s Membership and Communications Manager. She led us to a little courtyard where the Lurie Garden office and bee hives can be found. It was an area hiding in plain sight, obscured by hedges and fencing.
There we saw the hives, which are managed for the Lurie Garden by the Chicago Honey Co-op, a very interesting organization. The Co-op harvests its own honey from roughly three dozen hives located at very urban locations within the City of Chicago.
They also manage hives for the Lurie Garden, the Museum of Science and Industry, the City of Chicago (on the green roof of City Hall) and other clients. For new and aspiring beekeepers, the Co-op offers classes and consulting services.
This is Jefferson Shuck. He’s a member of the Chicago Honey Co-op who also works part-time for the Lurie Garden, which sounds like a pretty idyllic existence. He was there to introduce us to the bees.
Jefferson suited me up in my own hat and veil. I think this is a look that works for me.
Then he started to show us the inside of the hive. Jefferson says you should not stand in front of the hive, the bees consider it to be rude. Instead, you should stand behind or to the side.
The hive consists of movable boxes. When the boxes are full of honey, they are a very heavy lift.
Each box is filled with frames.
In the frames the bees are hard at work. The single queen lays 2,000 eggs a day, which sounds exhausting. The many female worker bees do almost everything else, from foraging to janitorial duties.
Then there are a handful of male drones, who are good for only one thing. Jefferson considers honeybees to be gentle creatures in general, but the drones don’t even have stingers. He demonstrated by holding one in his hand.
Here’s a frame that is full of honeycomb. We got to taste a dab of the honey, although I made the mistake of sticking my honeyed finger right into my veil. Eventually I did get the finger to my mouth. Lurie Garden honey tastes unusually light and floral.
Honey is basically concentrated flower nectar. The worker bees bring the nectar back with them from their foraging expeditions. The Co-op harvests the honey in the fall.
This is Laura Ekasetya, Director of the Lurie Garden, with Program Manager Karen Taira to her right. The Lurie is planning to bring in an entomologist to assess the wild bee species in the Garden.
After we said goodbye to the bees, Judy and I got to see the Lurie Garden office. It’s an unpretentious space, crowded but cheerful. On one wall a profusion of garden tools were hung with scrupulous care, clear evidence of a tendency to be compulsively organized. (I won’t hold it against them.) A chart with pictures of the Lurie’s 60+ volunteers hangs on another wall.
On the way back to our offices Judy and I noticed the patches of Daffodils. A pure white variety, ‘Thalia’, was especially fetching.
As was a very light yellow variety called ‘Lemon Drops’. Laura told us that this is an excellent variety for prolific and long-lasting flowers.
A lunch break with the bees, flowers, and people of Lurie Garden left Judy and I with considerably lighter spirits as we headed back to work.