Presidential Buzz: White House Garden Home to a Beehive

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While NewsFeed wasn’t fortunate enough to be offered a jar of the up-and-coming White House honey, world leaders have found themselves a touch more privileged.

Sure, Michelle Obama’s 1,100-square-foot kitchen garden gets plenty of press, but what about the lone beehive, a real workhorse in producing honey for all things White House kitchen related? It’s uses prove as versatile as the man who cares for it. Charlie Brandts, a White House carpenter since the mid-1980s, serves as the White House beekeeper too, a sweet gig in a variety of ways.

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What was started in March 2009 by Brandts—the two-year anniversary kicked off the third season of the honeybees on Pennsylvania Avenue—has become all the buzz for the garden.

Right now, expect to find just 25,000 bees, but by mid-May the single colony will reach 60,000 and kick up the “major honey flow.” All the honey produced now until May will serve to feed the young bees, Brandts says, but from May through mid-June he hopes to produce close to 200 pounds of honey.

In 2009, the hive churned out 134 pounds of harvestable honey. “I didn’t think we would ever be able to beat that,” Brandts tells NewsFeed. “But then they made 183 pounds last year. We have a good robust colony down there right now and we expect good things this year as well.”

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The idea all started when a member of the kitchen staff approached Brandts, who now keeps several dozen hives at his home, about starting a hive to get regular amounts of homemade honey into the White House kitchen. Brandts says the one colony produces enough honey for the White House and the bees haven’t been a problem on the grounds. “They are more interested in nectar and pollen than they are in bothering people,” he says. “That’s what they do. They are bees, trying to build up stores to make a reproductive swarm.”

That productivity has served Mrs. Obama well. She has some of the honey stash jarred and given as gifts both when international dignitaries visit here and when she travels abroad, even delivering a jar to each spouse during the 2010 G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

And while the White House proudly gives a “substantial” amount away to Miriam’s Kitchen, which serves the homeless in Washington, D.C., there is still plenty of honey to go around for White House chefs.

Whether an addition to tea, used in salad dressings or in desserts—everything from pound cake and coating fruit to honey tarts and honey cupcakes—the honey goes a long way in the kitchen. And in the White House brewery. A pound of the honey was used to make the first ever beer brewed at the White House, a White House Honey Ale, which debuted in 2011 and treated guests at the Obama’s Super Bowl party. A kitchen staffer tells NewsFeed the honey “really gets used across the board.”

Brandts says the hive also “piques the interest” for people touring the White House, serves as an educational tool for urban beekeeping and shows the importance of pollination for the food supply.

NewsFeed likes the whole educational aspect, but would be far more interested in a bottle of White House Honey Ale.

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