WEST CHICAGO, Ill. (STMW) – DuPage County just got a little sweeter.

Fulfilling the dream of longtime volunteer Dr. Lawrence DuBose, the Forest Preserve District on Saturday opened its new Honey House at Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago.

“We have a facility now that will permit us to process honey,” DuBose told the 150 visitors gathered for the ribbon-cutting. DuBose also stressed the benefits to education and the bee industry in general.

Forest Preserve Commissioner Michael Formento, District 4, spoke of the unique status of the honeybee. “The bee is more honored than other animals because of what it does for the environment,” he a said.

Amy Roden, reigning American Honey Princess, explained how vital bees are to the American food supply. “They (bees) pollinate about one-third of our diet,” she said. Roden caught everyone’s attention when she pointed out that without the bee’s contribution to the production of tomatoes, cheese and various herbs, Americans would be without a dietary staple: pizza.

State Rep. and former West Chicago Mayor Michael Fortner, R-95th, said, “This is great; it’s a wonderful facility,” and stressed the importance of education. “A lot of people don’t understand the role of honey in our lives,” he said.

The district’s director of education, Dave Guritz, echoed Fortner’s sentiments. “We’ve been working really hard to find new ways to engage the community,” he said. “I think the new Honey House will draw more people.”

As for DuBose, his involvement goes beyond volunteering and paying lip service to an ideal. He also donated $100,000 toward the $255,000 construction price of the facility. For DuBose, bees are a passion; where others see troublesome pests, he sees vital proof of nature’s blessing.

And he warns of a serious threat to them. “I’m concerned that a lot of industry-funded research is misleading the public about the relationship between pesticides and the health of bees,” he said.

DuBose pointed out that many countries have banned the chemicals commonly used in farming in the United States and that he had no doubt the chemicals weakened the immune system of bees.

DuBose said professional beekeepers are well aware of the danger to their product from pesticides and try to always locate their apiaries away from large farms; he blames the misinformation about the risk to the efforts of chemical company lobbying.

Kline Creek Farm is a 200-acre parcel of land that recreates the conditions of a farm in DuPage County in the 1890s.

Along with seasonal exhibits designed to replicate the natural rhythms of nature, the farm produces its own gifts, including soap, toys and books. Education activities like canning, baking and planting are also vital to the farm.

Kline Creek houses about 100,000 honeybees in its apiary, and the hope is that having the new building, with its modern amenities, will enhance the educational process and help the local bee industry at the same time.

Marianne King and her husband Steve have been volunteering at Kline Creek for several years. “It’s great,” Marianne said, “and I’m glad they finally got it completed after all these years.”

King pointed to a sign on the wall reading, “Wanda’s Honey House,” and said it was fitting touch. “That was his wife,” she said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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