Presidents + Honey Bees – Building a Buzz-Worthy Legacy

Honey Bees Entering White Hive Box

Presidents’ Day, originally known as George Washington’s birthday, is upon us once again. While this day was originally designed to honor America’s first president on his birthday, it has since come to be known as a holiday to celebrate all presidents and the great work they have done for our country.

A few years ago we felt inspired by then-President Obama’s 2015 initiative to protect and promote pollinator health to explore the long history our nation’s leaders have with the humble honey bee. A lot has happened since our previous blog post, so we felt like it was time for an updated look at The Presidential History of Honey Bees.

  • George Washington is said to have been a big fan of honey and enjoyed it in his tea and was quite fond of covering his hoecakes with a reasonable drizzle.
  • Both fans of gardening, and understanding the pollination performed by honey bees, Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both kept bees on their estates.
    • There are still bees kept at Mount Vernon, and you can learn all about them here.
  • Thomas Jefferson wrote about the origins of honey bees in his nature book, Notes on Virginia.
  • Martha Washington is said to be quite the fan of rose-flavored honey (honey boiled with rose petals).
  • Have you heard about the “Bees that Saved America?” It is quite the tale, and you can read about it here.
  • According to our friends at Historical Honeybee Articles, Abraham Lincoln is rumored to be “very fond of honey.”
  • In 2009, Charlie Brandts became the first official White House beekeeper when he installed a hive of nearly 70,000 bees near the garden on the South Lawn to pollinate First Lady Michelle Obama’s Kitchen Garden.
    • Fun Fact: At one point in time, the Kitchen Garden had as many as 50 varieties of vegetables, with some of the seeds even coming from Thomas Jefferson’s own gardens at Monticello!
  • Honey harvested from the White House hive was often given out as gifts that span the world, including such recipients as wounded warriors, visiting school children, and even the Pope!
  • Though not residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Second Lady Karen Pence had a beehive installed at the Vice President’s residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory compound in 2017.

Which of these fun facts surprised you the most? What other facts have you seen about the presidential history of honey bees? Let us know in the comments below!