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Introduction to Beekeeping with The Hive Supply Chicago — 9 Mind-Blowing Facts

Here, at Simply Wood Rings, we strive for eco-consciousness and sustainability; so, naturally we are interested in local initiatives that encourage such practices. The NWI Times.com reported that Mayor Daley began a green roof initiative on Chicago's City Hall in 2000 and three years later added two beehives housing about 10, 000 bees. Today, the number has grown to an estimated 160,000 bees. But that’s just the tip of the proverbial beehive. Last Sunday, I attended a Beekeeping 101 course taught by Naaman Gambill at the ReBuilding exchange (Bucktown). Naaman runs The Hive Supply Chicago (Homan Square) with his partner John Hansen who, Naaman told us, has 40 years of beekeeping experience in Chicago.

The Hive Supply Chicago

Photo: TheHiveSupply.com

The course was a three-hour introduction to the topic of urban beekeeping. It was amazing to learn about bees in a context I had never had the opportunity to do before. Naaman began the lesson with an overview of hives and provided information about basic necessities for urban beekeeping.

Here are a few things I learned :

1. If you're interested in keeping bees in Chicago, you’re easily allowed up to five hives on your property.

The only requirement is that you register with the Illinois Department of Agriculture which consists of filling out a “brief one-page form and mailing it to the IDOA.” This process is free of charge and you will receive access to necessary, yearly inspections from a IDOA Apiary Inspector. Naaman explained that the inspectors are actually there to help you in any way possible — they are there to serve the beekeeping industry.

2. There is such a thing called “bee space.”

Bee-space is the amount of space bees need to move around in the hive—this is typically 3/8” to 1/4”.  The amount of bee-space you allow for in your hives determines the amount of propolis — a type of bee glue — and comb that the bees will produce.

SWR Bee Space

Bee-Space

3. There is one queen per hive — around 20,000 bees in total. 

When a colony starts or an old queen retires, queen bees hatch and then duel it out GoT-style. 

4. ….And she only mates with drones from other colonies.

Drone bees are male (non-worker) bees and take up about 3% of a beehive population. Within a hive, they are virtually useless. These bees are the first to sacrifice themselves in times of bee-hardship (i.e. disease or cold spells) as they live on the flanks of the colony.

5. One hive can produce up to 62 lbs of honey. On average, hives produce around 29 lbs a year.

And they fly pretty far to make it. According to the British Beekeepers Association website "Bees fly about 55,000 miles to make just one pound." 

6. Bees are very type-A.

They remove pests and dead/dying pees as soon as possible. However, when a pest finds its way into the hive — the colony will sting the pest (for example a mouse) to death and then, if they’re unable to carry it out, they completely seal off the pest in propolis, i.e. that bee glue I mentioned in no. 2.

Bee Dance Video by Georgia Tech College of Computing

Screenshot from The Waggle Dance of the Honey Bee video published by Georgia Tech College of Computing

7. Bees are highly skilled communicators. Especially through dances.

Bees are hyper aware of time and space. Bees know where the sun is at all times because they have a polarized lenses and an internal clock. They utilize encoded dance moves (wiggling, figure-eight patterns, orientation, length of dance time, and pheromone expression) to indicate to each other where food and water supplies exist outside of the hive.

8. Also, when bees rub against each other they are communicating through pheromones.

The pheromones act as a sort of telephone-game relaying back to the queen, who makes decisions about how safe and healthy the colony is. If her own pheromones take too long to travel back to her, she knows the hive is getting too large and she must leave with part of the colony and allow the remainder to choose a new queen.

9. Different breeds of bees have different temperaments.

For example, Italian bees are comparatively gentle while Russian bees are more defensive in nature. Naaman suggested that, of the existing breeds, Carniolan bees have the best combination of traits while still maintaining a hardiness that is suited to Chicago’s climate.

Bees are amazing creatures and they’re integral to the health of our ecosystem. There are tons of beekeeping communities in Chicago and resources available on urban beekeeping and I’d encourage you to check them out. Below are a few links to get you started. Have a great week!

The Hive Supply Chicago

Cook Dupage Beekeeping Association

Chicago Honey Co-Op

Garfield Park Conservatory

Windy City Beekeepers Association

Westside Bee Boyz

Belmont Feed and Seed 

Class Materials at The Hive Supply Chicago, photo taken by Madeeha

Class Materials at The Hive Supply Chicago, photo taken by Madeeha Lamoreaux

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My Last Blog Post

My Last Blog Post

When I graduated college in 2012, I started looking for a job in the jewelry industry since I was doing my own metal-smithing on the side. I saw a post on Craigslist for a bench jeweler position with Gustav Reyes with his company Simply Wood Rings, and I knew I wanted it more than anyone else. I ended up getting that job and then over the years moving onto other jobs and things, but ultimately staying in touch with Gus for the past five years. I ended up ordering rings from Gus when I was looking for a ring set and I inquired about working with him again, but this time in an administrative position. I lucked out and got to spend the past year working as an Administrative Assistant for Simply Wood Rings. I have learned a ton during this past year, and also have made some great friendships while here. I cant explain how thankful I am for everything I have learned and all the appreciation I have been shown. Gus has helped me with my own jewelry business in any way possible and I have been given numerous opportunities while here. It is also so great to be part of a community of artists and eco-conscious people. It is bittersweet to have to move onto another position next week, but I can’t explain enough how great my time with Simply Wood Rings has been and I know I will always have my Simply Wood Rings family!

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Interview with our Owner Gustav!

We recently interviewed our owner here at Simply Wood Rings, and we decided to share it with you! Gustav started Simply Wood Rings ten years ago, so we thought it was time to ask him some questions about why and how he began Simply Wood Rings! 



Tell us a little about yourself and your business:

I was born in Mexico and raised in the United States. My father was a carpenter, so there was wood around me all the time growing up. He also studied jewelry in his free time and would bring me to the studio in Pilsen where he would learn techniques from other jewelry designers. A lot of his work inspired me at a young age, along with the Pilsen neighborhood where my business is located today. I attended the Art Institute where I studied painting and drawing, but afterwards I worked in construction for many years. While working in construction, I decided to start learning how to do woodworking so I could start making furniture. During that time, my partner, who is now my wife, asked me to create a wooden ring for her. I told her I didn’t think I could make one without compromising the integrity of the wood, but she insisted. She came to me with ideas on how to make one, but I kept pushing the idea away. After she insisted more and more, she came up with a technique of wrapping the wood where the wood had enough integrity to be wearable. It was from her that the whole process came to be. We have now been in business for the past ten years with no looking back.

Why wooden rings?

I wanted to create an alternative to traditional rings for people. Wood is an alternative to traditional structure, large corporations, and traditional ideas of “forever.” When you wear a wooden ring, it demands your attention. You have to be mindful of the material you are wearing and it brings you into the present moment. As humans, we aren’t put on this Earth forever, and the wooden ring reminds us of our fragility and how it is important to be mindful in the present. We don’t exist in the future, we exist now, just like wood. Our business is also eco-friendly and the wood we use is all salvaged from around Chicago.

What inspires you?

I am inspired mostly by the material itself and the stories of people we work with. Wood translates well to the sentimental connections we make with our customers because wood already holds an authentic position in the world of materials. Our customers have amazing stories that we use in our rings, and each ring is completely different than any others because of that. When I started making wooden items, I made keepsake boxes for women to place sentimental items in. The connection between wood and these objects creates a story unique to each individual, and that translated into our mission with Simply Wood Rings. I am also inspired by providing the alternative to metal rings that people may have not known existed prior to me starting my business.

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While You Are Here

Pilsen, Simply Wood Rings, While Visiting, While in Pilsen, Wood Rings

Did you know that you can visit our shop at any time and see all our rings in person? You can! We love to have visitors see where all the magic happens. There are so many things to do in our neighborhood that we made a list of all of them. We have a brand new page that shows all of our favorite places in the Pilsen neighborhood that you can check out while you are here. We have a comprehensive list of places to shop, drink, eat, hang out, or see art.


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Breaking News! We are Moving to Pilsen

we are monving
This week we’re packing up the studio with care, and heading to the northwestern side of Pilsen. We’ll be sad to say goodbye to everyone at MANA, but we’re so excited to meet our new community at the Midland Building.

Starting today, we’ll be able to receive mail at our new location, but will be accepting mail at our current location through early October.

Please send refinishes and materials to 1500 S. Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60608.

We’ll post pictures as soon as it’s camera-ready!