12 tools that keep the White House bees buzzing

The White House beekeeper maintains the health of the honeybee colony—and keeps the Secret Service informed of its activities.

This story appears in the February 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.

The White House is buzzing—with bees. Beekeeper Charlie Brandts has tended several colonies since 2009, when then First Lady Michelle Obama wanted a hive to pollinate her garden. The honey is used in dishes served at the residence and is also given as gifts. Like all honeybee colonies, the ones at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have been susceptible to loss, so hive inspections and mite testing are among Brandts’s routine tasks. Given the high-profile nature of his charges, however, this is not typical beekeeping, he says. “I do have to inform the Secret Service before I light my smoker.”