Managed Beehives for Your Property in the Chicago Area

Since 2010, The Best Bees Company has offered a unique, turnkey way for individuals and organizations to make a positive impact on the environment. Operating in Chicago since 2015, Best Bees is now the leading beekeeping service in Chicago and throughout the greater Chicago metropolitan area. 
We work with both residential and commercial clients, including JP Morgan/Chase, Beacon Properties, Gallagher Insurance and the Federal Archives.

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Find out if your property is right for bees

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Our Mission

To expand the bee population while improving the health of honeybees and other pollinators here in Massachusetts and across the world.  Our locally certified beekeepers install and manage hives on your property and use the data we collect to drive the science of pollinator health forward with scientific partners that include Urban Beekeeping Lab, NASA, MIT and National Geographic.

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Services Provided in the Chicago Area

We offer innovative solutions that can help bring your corporate sustainability programs to life. These include the highest standards on beekeeping, as well as developed workshops and programs that will engage your community — employees, guests, tenants, community leaders, and the public — in your sustainability work.

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Commercial Services

Beekeeping for Your Residential Backyard

If you’d like to save bees, build a healthier environment, pollinate your garden, and have your own honey harvest, then our residential service is perfect for you! We offer turnkey beekeeping, honey harvesting, and DNA analysis designed for homeowners in a wide range of environments. Regardless of the size of your property — whether you garden on a balcony or have acres of land — we can install and manage one or several hives for you. .

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Residential Services

Beekeeping Education

We offer a number of educational programs at varying price points that have proven popular with commercial clients, schools, gardening clubs and organizations promoting sustainability.

Pre-recorded and live hive tours

Experience a guided tour as one of our bee experts takes you on a walk-through of your hive visits and inspections. Get a glimpse of the busy life of bees, and learn more on how to keep tenants engaged with their local environment. Live tours are available for up to 20 participants.

Meet an expert beekeeper

Participate in a beekeeper-led webinar and Q&A session. This virtual event is a great opportunity to learn about your bees through the lens of a beekeeper. We’ll discuss the data collected from your beehives, why bees matter, and what it's like to take care of your bees.

Virtual keynotes

Gain insight into the world of bees with our Chief Science Officer and Founder, Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich. Noah's knowledge of honeybee health and his passion for bee research will leave your audience spellbound, and with a wealth of new insight about our natural world. Our virtual keynote package includes signed copies of his book, The Bee: A Natural History.

We also offer free and open online programs, such as live meetings with beekeepers and educational webinars.

How Professional Beekeeping Works

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Installation

We help you choose an ideal location to establish one or more beehives at your home or workplace.

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Maintenance

Our impassioned and experienced beekeepers service your beehives once a month, providing high-quality care and detailed reports.

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Harvesting

You keep 100% of the raw honey produced. We’ll handle the rest— small batch extraction and bottling with personalized labels.

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Research

At every visit, we collect data and share it with our research partners to advance the science of beekeeping and improve the health of pollinators worldwide.

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Safe

Our honeybees, Apis mellifera ligustica, are the most docile species of honeybees, making our hives extremely safe and the instance of stings very unlikely.

We situate our hives in safe locations, secured from animal intrusion and weather damage.

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Secure

Our beekeepers have extensive experience working in densely populated areas in and around Chicago, and are experts at safe hive placement on rooftops, balconies, and gardens. They’ll work with you to site your hives in visible, low-traffic areas, where you can safely enjoy observing your bees as they come and go. 

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Insured

Our beehives and beekeepers are fully insured for personal liability and damage.  We  can provide you with a Certificate of Insurance (COI) if needed.

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Beekeeping Laws in Chicago and suburban Illinois and Indiana

The State of Illinois requires beekeepers to register their hives with the State Department of Agriculture. There is no charge for registration. Chicago does not regulate beekeeping, but some municipalities do, so check with your local health department if you’re considering keeping bees.

All of our beekeepers are locally licensed to use pesticides and are certified for safe roof-top work.

Chicago Service Area

We service hives in Chicago and throughout the metropolitan area, from the Wisconsin border in the north to rural areas 50 miles southeast of the city, including the following counties:

Cook County

Lake County

Kane County

Will County

DuPage County

McHenry County

What's Included

  • Site Evaluation
  • Hand-crafted, all-natural beehive equipment installed onsite
  • A colony of docile honey bees (Apis mellifera ligustica)
  • Monthly maintenance visits and follow up reports
  • Advanced scheduling so you can alert your team
  • Full-time customer service team available by phone or email
  • Raw honey, harvested and bottled just for you
  • Replacement colonies provided at no cost
  • Fully insured professional service

About Local Honey

Honey production varies from colony to colony, depending on the strength of the Queen, the health of the hive and the availability of nourishment. New colonies tend to produce less honey than established ones. When there is a surplus of honey, we will harvest and jar it for you.

The composition and flavor of honey varies from hive to hive as well, depending on the floral species available to pollinate. This means that honey from your hive will have a unique profile. Tasting it, you’re tasting the composite of all the flowers your bees have visited! DNA analysis of Chicago area honey shows our bees the three most common species that bees are pollinating are clover (18.4%), linden trees (12.2%) and pine trees (11.5%). The flavor of local honey varies somewhat by season, with linden predominant in the spring, making for a richer tasting honey, while summer is dominated by clover, known for sweeter, floral notes.

In our studies of honey DNA, we’ve found that honey from urban hives includes a much wider range of species — as much as eight times more than honey from rural and suburban hives!

Many of our residential customers are planting native species in their gardens to help both honeybees and native pollinators.

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HoneyDNA

We pioneered the process of identifying the exact percentage of various pollen species found in honey through advanced genomic sequencing. Understanding where bees foraged reveals which plants best feed pollinators in the local environment.

Already Have a Hive?

At Best Bees, we’re proud to be a part of the local beekeeping community in every area in which we work.

If not already a member of one of the area’s beekeeping associations, we encourage you to join. There are three local associations to consider: Illinois State Beekeepers Association (www.ilsba.com), Cook-Dupage Beekeepers Association (www.cookdupagebeekeepers.com), and Chicago Honey Co-op (www.chicagohoney.com). 

Join our Citizen Scientist movement!  Here are some ways you can participate:

  • Plant more pollinator habitats on your property
  • Use bee-safe pesticide alternatives
  • Get involved in local and national lobbying
  • Submit your honey for HoneyDNA results — these will be shared with our nonprofit partner The Urban Beekeeping Lab.

You can also post your data to bee Citizen Science programs like iNaturalist, The Great Sunflower Project, and Beecology Project.

We gladly share the learning from our research and our best practices with everyone. To learn more about the findings of our research work, visit https://bestbees.com/white-paper-resources/. To watch one of the TED Talks by our Founder and Chief Science Officer Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich, visit our Research page https://bestbees.com/research/ . Finally, to stay in the loop on our latest thinking, read our blogs at https://bestbees.com/blog/

 

Unique Challenges and Opportunities to Beekeeping in the Chicago Area

The Chicago area is a microcosm of middle America — it includes a dense urban core, extensive suburbs and exurbs, and hundreds of square miles of farmland. The region is characterized by seasonal extremes of hot and cold. Neighborhoods close to Lake Michigan are moderated somewhat by Lake effect: warming in winter and cooling in summer. For beekeepers, the diversity of land use and climate means they must be prepared for a wide range of conditions that can vary not just by location, but by building height and hive placement. 

“Every roof has its own unique climate.” says Chicago beekeeper Sarah Long. “Some face east and are warmed by the morning sun, while others, just a few blocks away, face north and may be chilly and damp.” 

To protect against Chicago’s notoriously cold winters, most bee boxes have insulated tops that help retain heat. While the “Windy City” nickname refers to its politicians, Chicago skyscrapers do create wind tunnels that beekeepers must protect against, putting up wind breaks wherever necessary.

“It’s a challenge working on top of a skyscraper,” says Long, “but the views are breathtaking!  We have so much amazing architecture here!”

Strong up and down drafts create “wind canyons” that are a challenge for bees as much as beekeepers. “Honeybees quickly adapt to the conditions of where they live,” says Long. “They may not be able to take straight flights up to the roofs, so they learn to use the wind to their advantage.” 

While most bees have no problem with foraging from high elevation hives — there are parks and rooftop gardens throughout the urban core of the city — the energy used to reach sky-high hives may have some impact on bee survival rates. “50-60 stories may be the top range for healthy hives,” adds Long.

Best Bees clients are found from the Wisconsin border to the north to almost 50 miles southeast of the city. This wide range of latitude can mean as much as a month difference in the start and end of the seasons and in nectar flows.

As we’ve found in other urban areas, downtown Chicago hives are the healthiest in the area because their bees have a much more diverse range of plants to forage. Analysis of honey DNA from hives in one downtown Beacon Properties location showed 250+ different species!

In rural areas, hives struggle because of the mono-cultural approach to agriculture, where vast fields are sewn with only one crop, such as corn, soy or wheat, which either are wind pollinated or have relatively short flowering seasons.

Bringing Innovative Beekeeping Practices to the Chicago Area

With every hive serving as a datapoint, we’re able to observe bees in a wide variety of conditions and test alternative treatments in hives across the country. This allows us to introduce successful innovations to Chicago and take learning from our Chicago hives to other cities.

View from the top of the Chase tower in Chicago featuring a rooftop Best Bees beehive

Frequently Asked Questions

 

We install and maintain honeybee hives on your property. Our expert beekeepers monitor the health of your bees and perform a variety of tasks throughout the year to help them thrive. At each visit, we also capture a range of metrics and share the data with renowned research partners to help the scientific community better understand the plight of pollinators. Towards the end of the season, we extract the honey and jar it for you.

About once per month for our Chicago Area hives. If your bees are distressed and need extra support, supplemental visits are included. We coordinate each visit in advance and send a summary report afterward.

Only a few square feet!  A beehive takes up as little as 2’ x 2’ x 3’. Our beekeepers need a few feet around the hive to access it, and the bees’ flight path will need to be unrestricted.

In the Chicago area, we typically install hives when all threat of winter has passed, which is typically in mid April. Installations after June are accommodated on a case-by-case basis, depending on our inventory levels.

We fully guarantee the health of our bees and queens. If a colony dies, we’ll replace it with a healthy one from our own stock at no additional cost. While we hope each of our hives will thrive for years to come, the reality is that pollinators are still dying at an unprecedented rate. In places like Chicago, where winters are often severe, we can lose 40-50% of our hives annually.

Our Boston-based headquarters is staffed full time and available Monday through Friday during work hours by phone or email to answer any questions. When a colony requires extra attention, additional visits are made at no cost to you.

Yes, we provide a range of event support packages for our commercial clients.  See Hive Programs for Commercial Customers for details.

Green roofs earn credits toward a building’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. Green roofs provide vegetation for water control, wildlife habitat, and better urban air quality. Honeybees can help maintain the green roofs that are becoming more common in big cities and thus contribute to a building’s LEED rating.

We service hives in the city of Chicago and throughout the metropolitan area, from the Wisconsin border in the north to rural areas 50 miles southeast of the city, including the counties of Cook, Will, and DuPage.

We handle visit scheduling for you. We’ll contact you at least 72 hours in advance via email.

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