Who We Are
Bike a Bee is an urban beekeeping project with about 50 hives on the south side of Chicago. Most of our hives are placed in community gardens, schools, urban farms, and other shared, visible spaces. We believe having bees where people can see them enriches the community’s understanding of bees and the natural systems around them; children, teens, and adults learn through observation and coexistence that bees are our friends, not our enemies!
We also believe that having a car is not necessary to be a productive beekeeping project. We bike to our hives for weekly inspections, equipment delivery, and honey harvest. By going by bicycle, we are able to slow down and better observe what is growing around us, wave to neighbors, and get in some good exercise.
Our honey is the byproduct of healthy hives, loving community spaces, and the bounty of Chicago summers! We bottle our honey according to which garden it’s from, so when you see us at market or in the store, pay attention to the label! Each neighborhood tastes slightly different from the next, but all Chicago honey is transcendently delicious. We take great pride in making the finest neighborhood-specific honey in Chicago: Our honey is never heated, micro-filtered, or mixed with any fillers, flavors, or anything. We take it straight from the comb, filter out the big wax bits, and put it into reusable canning-style glass jars.
Our workspace is in The Plant, a former meatpacking facility that has been / is being converted into a small food business incubator. Our fellow tenants are also our collaborators: beer brewers, algae tinkerers, microgreen farmers, flower farmers, vegetable farmers, gelato makers, pizza makers, saffron importers, kombucha brewers, and SO many more wonderful entrepreneurial humans. Inside the building we focus on circular economies—how to make sure we aren’t contributing to landfills but rethinking “waste.” We reduce, reuse and only use the recycling bin as a last resort.
We have 50+ beehives in Chatham, Woodlawn, Englewood, Auburn-Gresham, Pilsen, Back of the Yards, McKinley Park, and Hyde Park. We also have a few satellite locations along the Bloomingdale Trail in Humboldt Park, in the Near West neighborhood, and in Archer Heights.
Support Us / Join Us / Learn With Us
All of our honey sales go back into the project to keep it going year after year. Check out our farmers markets and store list.
We have occasional volunteer opportunities as well as annual apprenticeships. Apprentices get to work alongside our founder Jana Kinsman once or twice a week for a full season of beekeeping. This opportunity is perfect for someone looking to get a deep understanding of urban beekeeping. Join our Mailing List to learn more.
Bike a Bee also offers classroom, summer camp, or community group visits! Read more here.
Bike a Bee History
Bike a Bee was started by me, Jana Kinsman. After taking a winter beekeeping class with the Chicago Honey Co-op in 2011 I became interested in caring for honeybees of my own in Chicago, where I live. In order to feel confident with actual bees, in the fall I found an apprenticeship at an apiary in Eugene, Oregon where I learned the hands-on aspects of beekeeping. The beekeeper Philip not only had a backyard full of beehives, but other “bee yards” in backyards, at elementary schools, and at urban gardens all over the city. We would drive around in his pick up truck checking bees all day and I would joke with Philip that I was going to go back home and do the same thing, but since I’m a big-time cyclist, I’d do it on my bicycle with a trailer.
After returning home, that tiny idea got into my head and in January of 2012 after much planning, I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for bees and hive equipment to place at community gardens all over Chicago. The Kickstarter earned the project a lot of press and soon the idea was funded!
In the spring of 2012 I placed ten beehives at eight different community gardens and urban farms all over the city. With the help of apprentices and friends, I tended to the beehives by bicycle all summer long. I haven’t looked back!