When White House carpenter Charlie Brandt installed the first beehive on the White House South Lawn in 2009, he probably had little idea how famous his bees and their honey would become.
Since the first harvest of just more than 134 pounds in 2009, the sweet stuff has been served at official state dinners, used in recipes by White House chefs, and beautifully presented as gifts to foreign officials and other dignitaries.
And now, it's gone under the microscope to see where exactly the bees are sourcing their pollen — and what might be done to make it even better.
Konrad Bouffard, owner of Round Rock Honey in Texas, recently sent samples of the White House honey to Texas A&M University for analysis. Bouffard regularly tests his own hives to identify where bees are sourcing the pollen that make up his honey and to ensure the absence of pollutants.
According to Austin360, Dr. Vaughn Bryant, a scientist at Texas A&M, discovered that White House bees are sourcing the majority of their pollen from clover but that the honey overall has a very low count of the powder. “This suggests that over the winter, the bees may have been fed sugar water, thereby reducing the final pollen concentration value of the produced honey,” he told the site.
Honey bees are often fed sugar water during the late winter months to assist in building up the colony, which often is reduced to several thousand bees (from a height of 60,000-70,000 in the summer) due to winter die-off. It's also a means to get the bees through a cool spring (like the one we just experienced) when they've exhausted their honey stores.
It's likely that the fall crop (generally harvested in early September) will show a honey that is much higher in pollen, but Bouffard recommends that the White House should also allow some lawn to grow wild near the South Lawn vegetable garden for even better results.
“Patches of un-manicured lawn are more important to producing quality honey than even herb and vegetable gardens,” he told Austin360. “Increasing the diversity of grasses and flowering weeds gives the bees more foraging options and helps maintain and preserve the natural pH and the humidity of the soil.”
The Texas A&M test also revealed pollen from dogwood, cherry, crepe-myrtle, elm, magnolia trees, honeysuckle and even poison ivy.
For more on the White House beehive, check out the video below:
Also on MNN:
- Michelle Obama to write book about White House garden
- Video: Planting the spring garden at the White House
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