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Bee-nificial Bees!

Written by Rhonda Ferree, retired horticulture educator

Beekeeping is an increasingly popular backyard hobby. It also fits the growing trend to protect pollinators, which are so important to our food supply.

There are many different types of bees. Bumble bees are the only truly social bees native to the United States. They are important pollinators and according to a University of Minnesota entomology website, are used commercially to pollinate crops such as tomato.

Honey bees are also important pollinators and the source of honey and beeswax. These social bees are an introduced European species and not native here.

Most of the other types of bees are solitary insects that live and work independently instead of in colonies. These include carpenter bees, mining bees, leafcutter and mason bees, to name a few.

Want to learn more about bees and beekeeping?

Beekeeping for the Backyard Gardener is available on YouTube as part of the University of Illinois Extension's Four Seasons Gardening series. Jennifer Fishburn, Horticulture Educator, discusses the basics of starting a backyard colony, understanding honeybees and hive management. The program is available at

The Heart of Illinois Beekeepers Association is offering a beginning beekeeping class on January 30, 2016 at the Tazewell County Farm Bureau in Pekin, IL. Come learn about the fascinating honeybees and how to manage them and their home, the beehive. For a $50 nonmember fee you'll learn from experienced beekeepers, videos, written materials and hands on demonstrations. More information is available at

If you prefer to learn from others consider joining a local bee club. Master Gardener and longtime beekeeper Glenn Fanter's bee club will meet begin again in the spring and is open to the public. For more information contact University of Illinois Extension at 309-543-3308309-543-3308.

The University of Illinois Local Food Systems and Small Farms website has many links with more information about beekeeping, bee removal sources, beekeeping associations, and much more. It is found at

If you haven't already, join the bee-craze. Beekeeping is a fun, family oriented, delicious, and beneficial backyard hobby.



As horticulture educator, Rhonda Ferree inspired citizens in local communities to grow their own food and improve their home landscapes. She focused on high quality, impactful programs that taught homeowners how to create energy-efficient landscapes using sustainable practices that increase property values and help the environment.

After 30 years with University of Illinois Extension, Rhonda retired in 2018. She continues to share her passion for horticulture related topics as “Retro Rhonda” on social media.

ILRiverHort is a blog that helps people connect to nature and grow.

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