So last week, I get to attend a wonderful lecture called “Bees, Bees, Bees” by Jana Kinsman of Bike a Bee. The circumstances of the lecture were also fairly neat. It was held at the disORDER Safehouse, run by the Monks of Invention. They are a group of people whose “goal is to bring together business leaders, experts, and investors, on Missions to invent and market breakthrough new products, services and technologies — with the collective support of the Brotherhood.” Their tagline is brilliant: “Imbibe, Indulge. Invent.” Every Thursday, they hold events at a Safehouse where people can talk about their passions, whether its food, a machine, or more. This was my first time and I was impressed at the community.
Jana Kinsman started Bike a Bee in 2012 after working at an apiary in Eugene, Oregon. She used a Kickstarter campaign to start up Bike a Bee. In the summer of 2012, Ms. Kinsman set up ten beehives in eight locations in Chicago. In 2013, she set up six more this past year. She tends the hives and makes amazing honey (I can vouch for that and the fact that I will buy all of her honey when it is available). She uses the bike for transportation between the hives. In addition, she reaches out to local communities and schools to talk about bees.
And it was fascinating to hear about this amazing social insect. So the vast majority of bees are female. There is the queen bee and then there are the worker bees who do all the work. In the summer, the male bees, or the drones, will be hatched whose sole purpose is to pass on their genes. They hang out in a place in the sky called, “the drone congregation area,” which was described by Ms. Kinsman as a sort of bar for bees. A virgin queen bee will go up there and mate with 15 or so of the Drones. The drones die and she goes off to lay eggs. She has enough sperm to last 5 years. 5 YEARS.
I also learned that bees eat pollen and honey. They serve two separate purposes. The pollen is their protein while honey is their carbohydrate. When the humans extract the honey, they carefully take out the trays of wax from the hive and put it in a centrifuge (in both ways). They have to be careful with the wax since wax takes the bees a lot of energy to make.
Jana Kinsman stressed that a good beekeeper always knows what her bees are eating. When you become a beekeeper, you become aware of when flowers and plants bloom. So she prepares with extra trays for the bees to use when certain plants are about to bloom. That’s pretty neat. All of this impacts the taste of the honey. However, if bees find a bad source, like the famous M&M factory story in France, it is terrible for the bees and it makes really bad honey. She told us about how her bees found a cotton candy machine and used the horrifying sugar from that to make honey. She showed us the end product, which used to be purple, but now was green sludge. It was fairly gross.
Ms. Kinsman brought us 20 or so different kinds of honey from all over the US, Canada and even Italy. It was amazing to try them and see how different they were. For instance, there were two types of honey from the same hive but from the spring and summer. The color and taste were very different! Ms. Kinsman pointed out that we were really lucky here in Chicago because Chicago is very supportive of urban agriculture. Also, we have some awesome trees for bees.
So if you want to know more about Jana Kinsman’s Bike a Bee, check out her website here. I’m just waiting for her honey to go on sale.