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The People’s Garden First Honey Harvest: Part 1

This story has three parts. Please look for the next two parts over the next two days.

July 15 was one of the most exciting days I’ve experienced in my short time as co-beekeeper for the USDA People’s Garden. It was hot, humid, and hazy that morning, when I—together with seven partners and volunteers—went up to the roof of the USDA headquarters building, just off the National Mall, to harvest the first batch of honey ever produced by the USDA People’s Garden beehive. 

The USDA People’s Garden Apiary on top of the USDA Whitten Building in downtown Washington, D.C.

The USDA People’s Garden Apiary on top of the USDA Whitten Building in downtown Washington, D.C.

The beehive was installed on the Whitten Building about three months prior to our honey-harvesting visit—on April 21—and we weren’t sure how much honey the bees could have produced in that time. Bees typically forage about 2.5 miles in any direction, and I knew that in this location that range would give them many options for flowering plants to visit in their never-ending search for the nectar that serves as the basis of honey—so we had high hopes for a large harvest, but I was curious to see if our hopes would be realized. 

Some of the bees of the USDA People’s Garden Apiary.

Some of the bees of the USDA People’s Garden Apiary.

Joining me for this historic occasion were my co-beekeeper, Nathan Rice, an entomologist with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and our backup beekeeper, Andy Ulsamer, another entomologist from ARS. We also had USDA People’s Garden  team members Leslie Burks and Bob Snieckus, along with volunteers Patricia Barrett, a USDA People’s Garden Master Gardener volunteer and Farm Service Agency employee, and Sarah Graddy, and Brittini Hawkins, my co-workers at NRCS.

Our aim was to get the honey out of the hive as quickly as possible without agitating the bees, while also making sure none of us overheated in our bee suits—it was July in Washington, D.C., after all!

For the latest updates, follow the People’s Garden, NRCS and ARS on Twitter. 

(To be continued tomorrow…)

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