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Contact Us

James Theuri
Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
University of Illinois Extension
1650 Commerce Drive
Bourbonnais, IL 60914
Phone: 7087057701
FAX: 815-933-8532

David Shiley
Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
University of Illinois Extension
122 S Walnut St
Arthur, IL 61911
Phone: 217-543-3755
FAX: 217-543-3757




Beekeeping 101

James Theuri - Extension Educator - Illinois Small Farms/Local Foods  

Grundy/Kankakee/Will Counties

Bees have been kept since time immemorial: Israel is often named in the Bible as a "land of milk and honey," although it is thought that this referred to "honey" made from dates and figs, as the book does not mention honeybee cultivation. However, a new discovery has shown that indeed, 3,000 years ago, the Holy Land harbored an extensive beekeeping industry.

Beekeeping (or apiculture, from Latin apis, bee) is the maintenance of honey bee colonies, commonly in hives, by humans.

People keep/raise bees for the following reasons:

  1. Hobby -  Interaction with nature: working with bee-attractant plants, and seeing how the weather influences bee behavior.  Therapeutic benefits of honey: honey has some medicinal properties and has been used to benefit human health.  Beekeeping is appealing to some as a pastime, providing open air activity in addition to intimacy with the bee insect.
  2. Economic - Agriculture (pollination): bees are a major pollinator of fruits, vegetables and flowers.  Honey production : honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers, and  gets its sweetness from the monosaccharides fructose and glucose
  3. Environmental - Conservation of diversity: with climate change and pesticide pressures, bee populations are becoming affected. Bees are an integral part of the ecological system.  Preservation of surviving colonies: bee colony numbers are steadily dwindling through a yet-to-be-understood disorder which is the subject of intense research.

Basic Beekeeping Requirements:

Knowledge - Bee biology; identifying different bee colony members; bee life cycle; and beehive/colony dynamics; “Observing” bees and “Listening” to bees; season changes and bee needs; providing water and feed supplements to bees; protecting bees against extremes of weather, diseases, pests and chemicals.  Getting started with beekeeping; swarm management;  harvesting honey; bee products.

Equipment - Hive components and associated tools; personal protective gear; honey extractor.

How Much Does It Cost to Get Started?

This varies, depending on the method chosen – it is best to start with two hives – if one fails, the other succeeds, and also one can learn by comparing how the hives are doing. A basic breakdown for one hive (according to Dadant Beekeeping Supplies):

  • One hive setup (includes bottom board, frames, etc)                  $250.00       
  • Package of bees (3 lb of bees and a queen)                               $  80.00               
  • Clothing and tools (veil, gloves, smoker, 2 hive tools, bee brush $165.00         
  • Medication and Feed                                                                      ?               
  • Bee school, workshops                                                             $ 75.00               
  • Extractor and jars                                                                    $ 15.00

Thus, the first year with one hive would cost $585 and with two hives, about $850.

Do not get discouraged - read more, inquire, learn how to minimize startup costs and use more natural methods that may require less outlay of cash! Finding a mentor from a local beekeeping club is very helpful. If done right, you will end up with enough honey to pay back those costs quickly.

Beekeeping Resources:

For information:

Beekeeper Associations:

      Illinois State Beekeepers Association

      Local Beekeeper Associations (especially for mentorship)

Bee Equipment Companies (Dadant, Kelley’s, and several others)        

Bee Journals:

      Bee Culture

      American Bee Journal and others

Many beekeeping start-up books, e.g.: The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum                                                         First Lessons in Beekeeping by C.P. Dadant

Bee Conferences & Workshops - national, state, regional and beekeeper association meetings

Many University websites, for example:

      Purdue University’s “The Bee Hive” -

      Penn State’s “Beekeeping 101” Online Course:              

      University of Nebraska-Lincoln's "Beekeeping & Apiculture": 


Master Beekeeper Program (MBP) – a 3 to 5-year beekeeper training and certification through universities: 

For equipment and supplies:

  • Dadant & Sons
  • Walter T. Kelley Co
  • New England Beekeeping Supplies
  • Bee Built, and many others.

In Illinois, beekeepers may register with “DriftWatch™” at . It is a Specialty Crop Site tool that helps pesticide applicators to identify specialty crop and apiary sites to further enhance communications that promote awareness and stewardship activities between them and producers of specialty crops/beekeepers since registered sites can easily be located using the Google Maps™ interface before sprays are made.