Beekeeping transcends politics. At least, at the ‘stick your hand in the hive’ level, it should. In the past, I’d written about how the Obamas planted hives next to peas and carrots at the White House. The president uttered a profound, “Bees are good” when he calmed a group of school children who had panicked at the sound of a honey bee on the White House lawn. (See the video here. It’s cool.) Michele Obama brought a high-profile acknowledgement of ecology, bees, beekeeping, healthy eating, and wholesome living to the public’s eye. Now it’s the new VP family’s turn to keep the flowers pollinated in D.C.
Vice-President Pence’s wife, Karen, has brought honey bees to the vice-presidential grounds, which sits on a 13-acre spread belonging to to the US Naval Observatory. In the official unveiling of the hive, Mrs Pence said,
“All types of pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, birds and bats, are critical to providing our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine… However, our beekeepers have been losing colonies for many years. This presents a serious challenge to our ability to produce many of the agricultural products that we enjoy today.”
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue helped announce the arrival of the new beehive on the grounds of the vice-presidential residence, adding to the Second Lady’s comments,
“…our honeybee population has been losing ground at an alarming rate. The problem represents a diverse mix of challenges requiring a wide range of solutions. And at USDA we are leading the way in research to help out our pollinator friends.”
Well stated. If this translates into increased funding for research and better controls on the use of chemicals such as those sprayed on Florida’s citrus while trees are in blossom, it should result in more than symbolic sympathy for the plight of bees.
I think that the vice-presidential wife’s hive is more than a political gimmick. Karen Pence has maintained hives before, including a colony established when her husband became governor of Indiana in 2014. These are animal lovers. The Pences have a pet rabbit (which has already visited the VP’s office) and today Karen Pence’s Twitter page starts with a tribute to their late feline, Oreo, a two-tone cat which apparently died this morning. I take the menagerie to be a healthy sign of a family committed to animals and (hopefully) nature. The beehive seems a sincere effort on Karen Pence’s part to participate in improving our environment. Veils off to you, Mrs Veep.