As honeybees drop dead in droves, city-dwellers-turned-beekeepers swarm to save them.
Just west on 18th Street, 14-year-old entrepreneur Willy Wagner, whose mom runs the Scales & Tales Traveling Zoo, keeps two hives at an abandoned convent: one on the roof and another in the overgrown milkwood garden. The declining bee population played a direct role in his taking up the hobby, he says. “There were no bees in Pilsen, and my mom decided that bees would be good for the garden,” Wagner recalls. His chore turned into a vocation: He now sells his honey to a local chef and is considering starting an apiary maintenance service.
But death found its way to his hives’ doors, too. “I was real worried when I came up here and saw all the dead bees,” Wagner admits, standing on the convent rooftop. “Three days later I came up here and they were flying in and out.” God saved his queens.
Back on the Wicker Park rooftop, Kreilkamp and Newman observe their hive for signs of life. Eventually, a lone bee flies out of the bottom board, and then another. Newman pries open the lid and they peer down between the frames of honeycomb to expose the buzzing bee cluster inside. The hive is alive.