Angry beekeepers swarm Chicago garden show

August 21, 2013

(WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)
Activists attempt to deliver petitions to a garden show on Navy Pier. Security stopped them from entering.

If you attend the garden show at Navy Pier this weekend, you might be offered a honey stick by people dressed as bees. While you are enjoying your sweet treat, they may say, “Do you like food? Because if you do, you need to be thinking about us.”

The bees are part of a group of beekeepers and activists who are angry about this year’s Independent Garden Center show. They say Bayer, one of this year’s garden show sponsors, sells pesticides that harm bees.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin flew in from the Bay Area to participate. She says she has lost half of her hives in the last five years. But it’s not only her garden and honey she’s worried about.

“Since I eat a lot of food, like a lot of people do, I have a fear that half of our crops are pollinated by bees and other native pollinators, and they are dying out at alarming rates because of pesticides,” she said.

Bob Montano, head of customer service for Bayer Advanced, disagrees.

“The studies that we’ve done that these products, when used by labeled instruction, do not cause a health hazard to bees,” he said.

The activists say the research is biased and point to European studies that show the harmful impact of the pesticides.

The beekeepers and activists say they were denied a garden show booth and have been threatened with lawsuits if they protest.

They attempted to deliver 140,000 signatures opposing the pesticides into the show but were stopped by security before getting to the Pier’s entrance. For now, they are standing in a nearby park.

Shannon Heffernan is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @shannon_h

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