Jana Kinsman: Meet Chicago’s Queen Bee

October 26 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Generating a Buzz

When you think of bees, what do you think of? Probably either “I love honey” or “I got stung once.” But, like us ladies, bees are multifaceted. And honestly, there’s something so freaking cool about bees. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they have a matriarchal society. Queen bees live for about three years while continuously building their population, producing as many as 25,000 bees, most of which are workers.

Take a moment to just imagine a world in which you are in charge and you can have thousands of helpers to get you through the day! There’s a queen bee in all of us. The question is: What will we build?


It’s no secret honeybees are in significant danger. And that means so are some of our crops, since honeybees act as an essential contributor to the health of our food system. According to the USDA, honeybees pollinate about $15 billion worth of crops every year, from almonds to zucchini.

Between April 2015 and April 2016, beekeepers throughout the United States lost 44 percent of their honeybee colonies. Parasites that can spread between colonies, in addition to pesticides and malnutrition, are some factors contributing to the loss.

Want to help? Cultivate some bee-friendly plants, buy local honey and consider taking a beekeeping course.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Jana Kinsman, Founder of Bike a Bee

Let’s keep it buzzing by talking about a cool woman who is working diligently to save the bees, one bike ride at a time. It all started when Jana Kinsman was working at an apiary in Oregon, which partnered with other satellite “bee yards” in backyards, at elementary schools and at urban gardens throughout the city of Eugene. She joked she would take the idea back to her hometown of Chicago—but tend each community beehive by bicycle.

The idea stuck with her. So, in 2012, she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for bees and hive equipment to place at community gardens scattered all over Chicago. Backers helped Jana exceed her financial goal, pledging more than $8,000, and Bike a Bee was born. An avid cyclist, Jana fashioned a trailer system attached to her bike so she could ride from hive to hive.

While Bike a Bee is mostly a one-woman show, Jana relies on volunteers to help her care for 32 hives on Chicago’s West and South sides. She also hosts classes, including one focused on how to be confident around these sweet and stinging little guys, and she makes house calls, provides swarm-capturing services and, tastiest of all, extracts honey.

Jana’s life isn’t all about bees, though. OK, it mostly is, but she’s also a talented illustrator. She created a business called Doodlebooth, through which people can hire her to create in-person portraits at events. She says the concept came to her when she was sipping on a mimosa and drawing friends at a Christmas party. So, let it be known cocktails can bring about some great business ideas!

As a woman who’s her own boss and following her passions, Jana says she tries—sometimes unsuccessfully—to not over-extend herself. While her gut might tell her to say yes to so many opportunities, she knows what works for her is finding a balance that’s as sweet as honey.


If nothing else, bees can teach us a little something about resilience and determination. Consider this quote from cosmetics tycoon Mary Kay Ash, who said:

“Aerodynamically, the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know it, so it goes on flying anyway.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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