It was at a Governors’ Conference several years ago where Mrs. Karen Pence learned about bees firsthand. She knew they existed; she knew they were important, but Mrs. Pence did not realize exactly how exciting bees were until she attended this conference with her husband.
The National Governors’ Association sets up meetings for first spouses several times a year. Presentations showcase what is being accomplished in their own states, and that’s where she got the idea to have a hive. First ladies from other states were talking about how they had started bees in their gardens at their governor’s office. This was four years ago, but that did it! She was stung!
IMAGE TOP LEFT: The unveiling of the bee hive at the Naval Observatory, home of Vice President and Mrs. Pence, was attended this spring by many of the American Beekeeping Federation members. Gabrielle Ludwig from the California Almond Board (blue top), Kevin Hackett, National Program Leader for USDA AMS (tall man with beard), the beekeeper who takes care of the hive (just right of center), USDA Secretary Perdue and Mrs. Perdue, Mrs. Pence, Tim May (Vice President of ABF), Roslyn James of the USDA-AMS National Programs, and Gene Brandi (President of ABF). Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks.
Up until this time, Mrs. Pence had no experience whatsoever with bees. No family members, friends, or neighbors kept bees. She noted that many acquaintances were fascinated by it now but no one had started their own hive. She had been reading about Colony Collapse Disorder and had a nagging concern about that. What a great example to have a bee hive at the Indiana office, and she jumped right on board.
Although she knew nothing at all about managing a bee hive, she contacted a local beekeeper who helped her establish a hive. The Governor’s residence in Indiana is on six acres and the bees travel throughout the neighborhood there. In Washington, D.C., the hive is on the Naval Observatory, a 72 acre plot with an abundance of floral choices. This hive was just started in April of 2017.
In D.C., there is a network of traveling beekeepers managing bees for other people. According to Mrs. Pence, the hive at the Naval Observatory is four boxes high now and will be condensed to three as winter approaches.
The bees work mostly floral sources with a concentration on pollinator friendly flowers. She obtained a list of flowers from a gardener. The Vice President’s residence has beautiful lush grounds, lending itself to a pollinator specific garden. Cone Flowers, Yarrow, Butterfly Weed, Bee Balm, Hyssop, Salvia, Verbena and Gaillardia abound. The beauty of having one’s own hive, of course, is that the essence of your honey reflects the fragrance and flavor of your own flowers.
When asked if the family uses much honey or has a favorite recipe using honey, her response was that the Vice President (and she called him ‘Mike’) has a favorite snack – bananas covered with peanut butter and honey. Also favored, however, is honey on toast, in tea or coffee, as a sweetener on a snack, and on ice cream.
Although not a “hands-on” beekeeper at this point, Mrs. Pence is a wealth of information about bees. One of the questions posed to her was “What would you like the American public to take from your example of being ecology minded by keeping bees?”
“I want the American public to support bees,” Mrs. Pence said. “Knowing that one third of our daily food comes from products resulting from bee pollination tells us how important it is for us to support bee health. If you have an apartment, have flowers on your balcony. In a yard, have a birdbath with rocks to enable bees to get a drink of water. Purchase honey and honey products. Go to your local farmers’ market and take advantage of buying from local beekeepers. Get the benefits of eating local honey including fewer problems with allergies.”
The American Beekeeping Federation is invited to D.C.
The American Beekeeping Federation has fully supported the keeping of bees by our politicians. This past summer, two of the American Beekeeping Federation board members were invited to Washington D.C. to help Mrs. Pence with the unveiling of the hive. Gene Brandi (President of ABF) and Tim May (Vice President of ABF) accepted the invitation to attend. Mr. Sonny Perdue, newly appointed Secretary of Agriculture, also attended. All were photographed with the new hive on the Naval Observatory property and were invited into the Vice Presidential residence for lemonade and cookies. Tim and Gene both agreed a huge statement had been made about the importance of bees in our economy simply by the choice made by Mrs. Pence to keep bees on her property.
IMAGE LEFT: Mrs. Karen Pence welcomes everyone to the unveiling of the new bee hive on the lawn at the residence of the Vice President. Mr. Sonny Perdue and Mrs. Perdue attended the festivities. Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks.
According to ABF President Gene Brandi, “It was an honor to be invited to the Vice President’s residence in June for the unveiling of their bee hive. We appreciated Mrs. Pence’s comments about the importance of honey bees to the nation as pollinators of approximately 1/3 of the food we eat. They also acknowledged the fact that honey bees are still not healthy and need our help.”
Because of Mrs. Pence’s interest and subsequent advocacy for honey bees and all pollinators today, the American people are even more aware of the crisis the honey bee is experiencing. Certainly this positive publicity will inspire others to follow suit and support the honey bee and insure its health and survival.