ParkTalk Podcast

S29 Episode 04: Meet Our Volunteer Beekeeper

Volunteer beekeeper Joe Bourassa explains how to help honey bees thrive and shares his passion for insects, their wellbeing and their importance to our ecosystem.

For a list of ParkTalk episodes and series, click here.  

Quote from the episode:

“Insect populations in total are in decline. There are a lot of factors that play into it, but one of biggest ones is habitat loss. We are all really good at growing beautiful lawns that have emerald green grass but I think we could help out the native pollinators and bees a great deal by setting up little pollinator plots and providing more habitat and also we can build certain structures like mason bee houses and orchard bee houses and set up little habitats for leaf cutter bees. We could make a way for all sorts of bees to thrive, not just honey bees. It's really important that we take care of the native bugs, first and foremost. I do think that native bees and honey bees can co-exist in harmony, because native bees tend to go for small plots close by and they can have a diverse forage but honey bees prefer to go for whatever is the biggest and most abundant thing at any point in time. They will go further to get the thing that's more abundant.”

– Joe Bourassa

Learn More about Bees

Joe provided the following resources for anyone who wants to learn more about bees:
This is called Beescape, it allows users to submit a location and it will provide a map with general estimates on how well honeybees will thrive in your local area. It uses scanned satellite imagery to estimate what kinds of plants are growing in the area and how strong the food forage sources are during spring/summer/fall/winter seasons.

Here is a chart of the major food forage resources honeybees typically find in Illinois

The Honeybee Health Coalition is a great resource for learning more about varroa mites and how to manage this parasite.

Here is a NY Times article about the bike rides with fewer bugs in Europe:

Here is another article about some of the researchers in Germany who have studied insect populations since the 1980s, their work suggests populations have declined as much as 76% over three decades.

Join the local beekeeping association

New beekeepers should register their colonies with the IL Dept of Agriculture via this link.

Beekeepers can work with this organization to minimize the damages caused by chemical spraying of fields

Here is a quick crash course on what to focus upon to begin a journey in beekeeping

Univeristy of Florida Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab - they have a great podcast

U of Florida Bee Lab podcast - Two Bees in a Pod

Books about honeybees to read and learn more:

Honeybee Democracy - Thomas Seely - read any book written by Thomas Seely!

A Practical Manual Of Beekeeping: How to Keep Bees and Develop Your Full Potential as an Apiarist - David Cramp

Bee Genetics and Breeding - Thomas E Rinderer

The best Youtube Channels centered around honeybees:

Youtube Channel with excellent information with the added bonus of being the beekeeper (David Burns) that is nearest to our local region/climate (his season follows ours very closely). He is also willing to be a virtual mentor if you sign up for his classes.

How to Volunteer

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Naperville Park District, click here.

Contact our volunteer manager, Becca at to discuss project ideas for an individual or group. Our park maintenance staff will find a project and time to match your interest with the needs in the parks.