White House bees: Meet the first hive

Posted at 12:56 PM, Oct 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-16 12:56:50-04

WASHINGTON — Temperatures are dropping, the leaves are changing colors and the White House bees are getting ready to retreat into their winter cluster.

That means Charlie Brandts, the White House beekeeper won’t need to stop by his old workplace quite so often. The 35,000 bees that call the White House garden home take care of themselves during the winter.

“They’re in a protected site,” Brandts says. “Not that the Secret Service is just protecting them, but they’re protected from the elements.”

Brandts worked on the White House carpentry staff since the mid-80s, but retired from full-time work in 2012. In 2009, then-White House chef, Sam Kass, asked him to set up a hive near First Lady Michelle Obama’s garden. Brandts had established one at his home a few years before and brought some of his bees to the White House.

They’re the first first bees.

“The curator office did research it and they did find out that there never was a beehive on the White House grounds before,” Brandts said. “This is the first beehive to be on the White House grounds.”

The bees are good for the garden and set an important example since troubled bee populations are a matter of national security.

In 2014, President Barack Obama instructed the heads of federal agencies, including his National Security Council, to “create a federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators.”

As CNN reported earlier this year, “Parasites, diseases and habitat loss have all taken a toll on bees… with billions of dollars riding on their tiny backs.”

The importance of the small insects isn’t lost on Brandts, who is doing his part for the bee population at the most famous address in the country.

Having a beehive at the White House is “a great statement for beekeeping. Bees are having a lot of problems as you know and so this keeps bees out their in the forefront.”