A change in Lake County regulations has created a buzz in the beekeeping community and a hope that more enthusiasts join the ranks.
Lot size requirements to keep bees in unincorporated areas have been relaxed substantially. So, for the first time since it reformed in the 1970s, the Lake County Beekeepers Association is offering an introductory class to the general public.
As of Thursday morning, about 30 people had signed up for the class to be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at State Bank of the Lakes, 50 Commerce Drive, Grayslake, with more expected. Cost is $25 per person or $35 per family.
"A lot of new beekeepers seem very excited," said David Bergman, a Third Lake resident and the group's longtime president. "The most common question this week is, `I can't get my check to your P.O box. Can I pay at the door?'"
Walk-ins definitely are being welcomed for the primer on bees and beekeeping.
"It's a good opportunity to let people know how it works," said Eric Waggoner, Lake County's director of planning, building and development.
County officials last November agreed to relax standards regarding the keeping of bees, hens and hoophouses. Before the changes, beekeeping was allowed only on agricultural parcels of five acres or more.
Now, two hives and two smaller hives, known as nucleus hives, are allowed on residential property up to 10,000 square feet or about a quarter acre. More are allowed as the size of the lot increases.
Waggoner said the measures are part of a strategy to provide opportunities for local food production, which reduces the cost and energy expended in shipping food and connects people to the environment.
"I think there's a lot of interest in keeping bees and raising their own food," said Will Pilipauskas, vice-president of the association and a McHenry resident who operates Lake Villa-based Willie's Honey Company. He and another association member, Perry Plescia, created the class.
Topics include setting up the hive, choosing equipment, type of bees to select and where to get them, pest management, honey production and other aspects of the craft. Ample Q-AND-A time is included.
"One-third of everything we eat is pollinated by bees so they're definitely important," Pilipauskas said. "They forage within a two-mile radius so they help everybody out."
Part of the class will explain how intricate bee hives are and what role bees play in the environment.
"It's a good opportunity and a good time," Bergman said. "People can order their bees and they can be up and running in April."
Waggoner said he expects more workshops involving bees and other topics associated with local food initiatives to become available.
"I believe it's the start of something bigger," Waggoner said of the introductory beekeeping class.