On a gray and drizzly Wednesday morning, Jed Schenkier, one of the rooftop farmers at Weiss, climbed the six flights of stairs to the parking garage roof. There, he tucked his pants into his socks, zipped his jacket as high as it would go and secured a mesh hat and veil over his head and face. Schenkier double-checked himself to make sure that he hadn’t left even an inch of skin exposed.
He hadn’t. “It was a successful day—only one bee sting,” he says a week later.
Schenkier was on the roof that day to harvest honey from the Weiss apiary—home to nearly 300,000 bees split among five hives. The bees pollinate within a 3-mile radius of Weiss, supporting the wildlife near the lake and in the Uptown neighborhood.
After ensuring that he was properly covered, Schenkier approached the hives, which look like boxes stacked neatly in a row. He removed the top from one of the hives and used a tin can with a spout to push smoke into the hive.
Because bees communicate mainly by smell, through their pheromones, the smoke interrupts their signals. With their communication system shut down, the bees lose the hive mentality that drives their every move, and they become pacified.
Next, Schenkier pulled the frame—the part of the hive that holds the honeycomb. Holding it over the hive, he used a brush to gently remove any remaining bees. They circled nearby as Schenkier transferred the 8 lb. frame into an empty box and covered it.
Jed Schenkier inspects the bee hives.
Schenkier went through each of the hives, analyzing whether or not the bees had produced enough honey. In order to survive the winter, the hives need a certain amount of honey, so Schenkier ended up leaving some of the frames alone.
He then took the frames to a centrifuge in Humboldt Park. The centrifuge whipped each frame around for approximately three minutes, filtering out the honey.
Managing the bees' honey production at Weiss.
“I only took frames from two of the hives,” Schenkier says. From those, he got 100 lbs. of honey, which he divided into 100 8 oz. jars for sale at the Uptown Farmers Market at Weiss. All hundred jars sold out within a month.
Overall, a successful second season for the Weiss apiary.
Watch a video.