Sunday, March 29, 2009

An Excellent White House Bee Adventure

yes, there they are on the White House LawnOK folks, I'm not the White House beekeeper, but I got a front row seat at the creation, and am so grateful for the experience that I have to share.

And for those of you who just can't wait, I have some additional photos on one of the supporting pages here.

On Tuesday, March 24, the first known hive of bees at the White House arrived at their location on the South Lawn. You don't have to count on my crummy photo to see them: just stop by the fence on the Ellipse (south) side: two deeps and a medium of Maryland mixed breed bees, with known Russian and Caucasian genetics.

The White House beekeeper is Charlie Brandts, someone who has been a quiet beekeeper in this area for three years now. His reserve is probably why he asked me to do some of the talking about his idea to include bees in the White House Victory Garden project.

During the 2008 campaign, Michelle Obama emphasized healthy, local food, and since arriving here has tasked her family's personal chef, Sam Kass, with putting a garden in to supply fresh produce for the Executive Mansion and educational events for the community. Charlie realized that this was a chance to include bees, and to show their important role in putting one of every three bites on your plate. Charlie allocated (free of charge, people!) one of his own hives for the White House Victory Garden, and it will both provide hive products and an teaching opportunities.

Why are you hearing this from me? Even though I am supposed to be a secret beekeeper, I am actually the noisiest hive-minder in Washington. I was invited to meet with the staff, and to tell folks how we get it done in DC! The folks who run the place had some questions about urban beekeeping, but I have spoken to garden clubs who were more resistant to pollination. I think they were just looking for a reason to say "Yes!"

It takes more than ideas, excitement and a presentation to make things happen at such a special place, however. It took a few weeks and approvals from everyone from the First Family to, of course, the lawyers. We've been wanting to tell everyone, and finally, a little while ago, the news broke.

Needless to say, many beekeepers are very excited, and some of them think that Charlie has the responsibility to be some kind of spokesperson for beekeeping in THEIR area. I disagree: he has done his part, it is time for us to do ours.

Now that you know some of the details, it would be great if we would all calm down and use the fact that bees are at the White House to advocate and educate about beekeeping in the wide range of communities and contexts that make up our country.

Don't let this news fade: use this moment to make bees shine in the spotlight, and to tie them to the place where your families live. It is hard for me to imagine a location with more special requirements and available excuses for not including honeybees.

If they can make it there, we can take them anywhere.

Oh yes we can!


Ulrike said...


People all over the world have been hoping that change will really happen in the US administration, and this news shows that it really does.
To solve the world's problems with climate change and resource overexploitation, small changes in behaviour are needed from everyone. Attention to nature is a vital thing. It's good to know that the first family is doing their share.

Chicago Honey Co-op said...

Well, we here at Chicago Honey Co-op are certainly happy to see a beehive at the White House. We find ourselves educating Chicagoans every day about the benefits of honey bees.

Just one question - Why such a tall hive stand?

Anonymous said...

Hi Toni,

Thanks for the photos.

And I think they've found the best urban beekeeper I know for advice and positive energy.

You go girl!


Nick said...

Right on! Glad to see this one the White House Lawn!

Thanks for posting these great photos, and for doing your part to bring the honeybees to the First Garden.

Now for the top bar hives...

Nick Hampshire

John Smith said...

An organic garden at the White House is a powerful political statement. Two Beehives are more powerful still; more like throwing down the gauntlet.

Together they speak plainly and simply to every pretender in the world that it is time to get real.

Join "The Honey Revolution." and don't let the media ignore this momentous change.

Maybe there is hope for the world after all.


Julia said...

I was there and took a photo on March 26th. I didn't know it was there until I saw it and knew immediately what it was. I was so excited and took a crummy photo of it. I wanted a shot of the garden, but wasn't sure where it was supposed to be. Thanks for talking about it. Can't wait to see the garden under way.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the pictures!

Unknown said...

This may be the anecdotal evidence needed to calm some of the irrational fears that led to the Giuliani beekeeping ban in New York City.

The Gotham City Honey Co-Op really appreciates the fine example being set by Charlie Brandts. But we have to ask - why the high platform?

Beegirl said...

I had no idea! Thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

Martha Stewart keeps bees and I am sure her legions of fans are in the know as to the important role bees play in pollinating flowers which Produce fruit!! Also, The Boy Scouts eliminated the beekeeping badge. The Children of the Children of the 60's denied the opportunity to beekeep. I guess Mom and Dad were too busy at Abbie Hoffman's Networking socials. Networking web Surfing testing car phoning everything else but raising their children Going to disney world I guess the Life of Excess is being Downsized. It's A Good Thing.

ShakD said...

I too second that question, why such a large stand? There are many types of hives out there, and my favorite beekeeper hive is the langstroth hive. Great article however, please create more articles!

Bees For Sale said...

It's great to see something I personally am so enthusiastic about be advocated by the President of the US! Who thinks he actually harvests the honey himself? Great post!