Arlington Hts. bees anything but a nuisance
The beehive in the backyard of the Zielinski family home in Arlington Heights is anything but a nuisance.
With the help of his wife and kids, Andre Zielinski keeps a swarm of about 7,000 to 10,000 honeybees in a self-made hive in his backyard.
Besides producing honey, Zielinski said keeping honeybees allows him to help the environment and educate others about bees, their importance to our food chain, and some of the threats they face.
"I want to be the change that I want to see," Zielinski said. "(My hive) doesn't change the world, but what I can do is help other people find out about bees and get educated about bees."
The Zielinskis are part of a growing trend of homeowners across the suburbs and state keeping bees in their yards. At the urging of residents, Des Plaines officials are considering a measure to remove beehives as an official nuisance, clearing the way for beekeeping in that community.
"It's a great hobby," said James Belli, president of the Illinois State Beekeeping Association. "Many people don't realize that some of the best honey comes from right here in Illinois."
Belli started beekeeping 11 years ago and now has 16 hives on his 45-acre farm in Wadsworth. His white honey won Best of Show -- Honey during the 2011 American Honey Show.
Zielinski was motivated to start his own honeybee colony after viewing the PBS documentary "Silence of the Bees," which focuses on colony collapse disorder (CCD), a phenomenon which is causing entire colonies to disappear.
"(CCD) is a massive problem worldwide," Belli said.
Since bees are responsible for pollinating both flowers and fruits, they play a vital role in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that bees are involved in one-third of the average American diet, contributing largely to the natural production of numerous crops and plants.
"Honeybees are the unsung heroes of our agricultural system," said David Burns, owner of Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in Fairmount, Ill. "We hated to see a disease killing so many bees, but there is a silver lining. More people got involved in beekeeping and became more sympathetic to honeybees."
Before starting his hive two years ago, Zielinski attended beekeeping classes at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, where he also purchased his supplies and bees. He later constructed his own custom hive, housing one Italian queen bee and thousands of worker honeybees.
Since then, the colony has produced about 80 pounds of honey annually, 50 pounds of which he uses in his home. The remaining honey is left in the hive with the bees.
Both Andre and his wife, DeLynn, are schoolteachers, and use their knowledge from home beekeeping to instruct students about honeybees, which tend to have a bad reputation.
"The more you educate yourself, the more you realize that they are not scary," said DeLynn Zielinski said.
When inspecting his hive, Andre Zielinski sprays the honeybees with sugar water, causing them to groom each other and become docile. He's only been stung once in his two years of beekeeping, and that happened when he walked outside barefoot and stepped on a bee.
"(A honeybee is) like any other creature; you respect what they do and what it does, and it works fine," he said. "As long as you don't do things that threaten their honey and their brood, they could care less if you're here."
Besides producing his own honey and teaching others about the importance of honeybees in nature, Zielinski ultimately wants to positively contribute to the environment, if even in a small way.
"I'm kind of an environmentalist," he said.
"If everyone does a little bit, I think the world will be a better place."