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Bee Hives Stolen From Beekeeper, Cyclist Who Was Dragged By SUV

By Linze Rice | May 13, 2015 6:02am

CHICAGO — For Jana Kinsman, Logan Square's resident urban beekeeper and habitual cyclist, the past 1½ years have seen their fair share of ups and downs. 

After witnessing firsthand the immense power of generosity that can swell from neighbors after a tragedy, Kinsman also knows a how few rotten apples can make it hard to enjoy the support.

Her most recent brush with bad luck happened sometime around Sunday, when she received a call from a friend's wife — a friend with whom Kinsman had help set up and nurture several hives in McKinley Park — who had arrived at their garden plot only to find the hives, owned by Kinsman and her friend, were missing. 

“In the urban setting I never thought I’d see it happening,” Kinsman told DNAinfo Chicago Tuesday night. “Not that many people are going to steal a hive, it’s not just your random act of hooliganism. This is someone who knows the value of bees and therefore stole these out of a desire, and they knew what they were doing.”

Linze Rice says it likely isn't some random person stealing beehives:

For Kinsman, it was another case of bad news.

In August 2013, then 27, she was injured in a biking accident while on her way to take care of a friend's cat. Just after midnight on a Tuesday that summer, she said the messenger bag she was wearing at the time was grabbed by an unknown man in an SUV. The man held onto the bag, dragging Kinsman along the way, until she hit a parked car. 

After her accident, the beekeeper and freelance illustrator behind "Bike A Bee" said she received an outpouring of support from the community and around the world, with many offering to assist her with medical costs and new cycling gear. 

“I was really bummed out and hurt about what the drivers and the people in the car did to me,” Kinsman told DNAinfo Chicago in 2013. But “to see how wonderful people are — this is above and beyond wonderful. It’s so amazing to me.”

Kinsman got back on her steel-frame horse and returned to beekeeping. In 2014, she set up two new hives in the McKinley Park Community Gardens, one for her business and one for a garden member, Erasmo Casillas Ortega, according to a GoFundMe campaign set up by Kinsman

Kinsman wrote on that page that Ortega had experience in beekeeping while living in Mexico but lacked the proper equipment, opportunities and support to revive the hobby in Chicago. 

She said she stepped in to help, selling Ortega a ready-to-go hive that would be planted near one for her Bike A Bee operation. When that season was over, she said the two of them decided to continue the cycle of giving back. 

"That year, all of the surplus honey that Erasmo's hive produced was sold to benefit the garden," she wrote on her campaign page.

After the bees died over the winter, Kinsman said she and Ortega set up new ones that were beginning to thrive this spring. Then she got the call that the hives had been stolen 1½ weeks after she'd last checked on them. 

She decided to set up the GoFundMe page in an effort to help she and Ortega reclaim $600 in costs and start fresh. 

Again, Kinsman was swept up in a twist of good karma. 

In less than an hour, before members of the community gardens were even aware of the incident she said, donations poured in for the pair — who as of early Wednesday had a little more than $1,100 in donations — prompting a positive response from Kinsman. 

"It's incredibly humbling, I wasn't expecting it to happen so quickly," she said Tuesday. "I feel very undeserving. ... It's a confusing feeling but I am so beyond grateful for it. I have a bunch of other hives in Chicago so this isn't my one chance that got ruined for me, but it was for Erasmo."

She said that while she's thankful for the additional overflow of community support, she never anticipated this would be a problem she would have to face as an urban beekeeper. 

"Most people don't just decide, 'Oh I'm going to steal this box full of insects,'" she said.

With any extra money from the fundraiser, Kinsman said she hopes to consult with her fellow garden enthusiasts to work out a designated safe area for people like Ortega to continue beekeeping. 

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