Long Lane Honey Bee Farms is the Bee’s Knees
During the past few years, beekeeping has become all the buzz. According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, beekeeper registrations increased for the 11th straight year.
Smack dab in the middle of those statistics you’ll find David Burns, who with his wife, Sheri, has educated and equipped hundreds, if not thousands, of first-time beekeepers since establishing Long Lane Honey Bee Farms eight years ago. At the couple’s farm and through their website honeybeesonline.com, Burns sells completely assembled and painted hives as well as 3-pound boxes of bees.
Hobby Gone Wild
Burns says that like most beekeepers, his foray into the business began purely by accident.
“I started keeping bees in 1994,” he recalls. “A guy at our church was a beekeeper, and a tree with a beehive fell down, and he said ‘hey, do you want to keep bees?’ He offered to help me get the hive from the tree and even loaned me his equipment, so that’s how I got started.”
After moving to the farm in Fairmount in east-central Illinois, Burns says he kept adding hives to his property and even began building his own equipment to keep his costs down. Before long, he began selling equipment and specially raised queens to other keepers.
Today, Burns’ hives, bees, winter feeding systems, and other tools and gear see high demand throughout the state and the surrounding region.
“Our typical customer runs the gamut. We have a lot of young people out of Chicago and surrounding cities that are part of the locavore movement. They want to have an alternative to plain white sugar. They want a more natural sweetener,” he says. “But also there are a lot of Baby Boomers who are retiring. They’ve bought that farm they always wanted, and they always wanted to keep bees and now they have time. Some people do it just because they want to look out the window and see a beehive in the yard. Still others have gardens or orchards they want to pollinate.”
If You Go
14556 N. 1020 E. Road, Fairmount
Please call ahead before visiting the farm. To reach the Lanes, call between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday or 10 a.m. to noon on Friday.
Burns says the local food trend also helps educate the public about the importance of bees to the sustainability of agriculture.
“In America, bees provide a $93 billion advantage to agriculture every year,” he says. “One out of every three bites of food we eat comes from pollination of a honeybee. Our coffee, our beef, our dairy [by pollinating alfalfa and other forages fed to cattle], plus all the healthy food that is good for us – that’s what bees pollinate. Without honeybees, we would be down to fish, rice and beans.”
Burns sees education as one of the most important aspects of his business. The Eastern Apiculture Society-certified Master Beekeeper – of which there are only 130 in the world – offers some 30 classes throughout the year in beginning and advanced beekeeping, bee health and queen rearing. Burns also teaches beekeeping at Heartland Community College in Normal and has even written a guide to raising quality queen bees with Jon Zawislak, an apiculture instructor at University of Arkansas in Little Rock.
Several county Farm Bureaus recently jumped on the bee bandwagon by partnering with local beekeepers’ associations to introduce members to the hobby by hosting classes and helping deliver starter hives.
“I see beekeepers who are our customers selling their honey at farmers’ markets or in stores,” Burns says. “I read stories about beekeepers that we’ve trained and educated. I hear their stories and see their articles, and see that they’re raising and selling queens. I really promote that. It’s rewarding to see my students doing well out there.”