The Buzz on Beekeeping in the District

Guest post by Carrie Madren

Pollinating crops, gardens, and flowering trees around DC, honeybees are being raised by a growing number of hobbyists who tend hives in the suburbs and in the District. Beehives now top the Fairmont Hotel and sit by The White House’s organic gardens.

The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation recently led a four-session short course on hobbyist beekeeping, hoping to get volunteers to tend the department’s new hives. Some 30 beekeeper-hopefuls attended the class, and will now volunteer to tend the city’s hives.

The District already has one buzzing hive located at Lederer Gardens on Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave. in Northeast, according to Kelly Melsted, Camping and Environmental Education.

“We will be placing five more throughout the city to educate about the need of pollinators in the city,” says Melsted, who notes that residents are extremely interested in beekeeping.

Though the city has much equipment, many experienced beekeepers have been helpful and willing to share resources. Currently, Melsted has a waiting list of 50 people who want to volunteer in addition to the 30 short-course students.

“Honey will go home with volunteers,” says Melsted, “I think it will be a community thing.”

Bees Thrive at The Fairmont

Bees and beekeepers at The FairmontHigh above the hustle and bustle of DC, 105,000 Italian honey bees are living it up on the rooftop of The Fairmont.

The bees, which were brought in as a response to the nation’s honey bee shortage, will enhance the hotel’s culinary program, which already features herbs such as chocolate mint, coriander and sage that are grown in the hotel’s courtyard garden.

Executive Sous Chef Ian Bens and Executive Pastry Chef Aron Weber will share the responsibility of Chief Bee Keeper.  They expect to retrieve 300 pounds of honey within the first year, and plan to use it in soups, salad dressings, pastries, and ice cream at the hotel’s restaurant, Juniper.

The Fairmont Bees came from Larry and David Reece in Germantown, Maryland. The Reece family has been keeping bees for over 150 years, and are widely respected among local beekeepers. Each of the Fairmont’s beehives house one queen bee and about 33,000 worker bees.

“Many pollinating bees have disappeared due to habitat loss and pollution.  Creating these new hives helps keep the bee population healthy and helps to ensure that plants are pollinated, which is also essential for insects, birds and animals to survive,” says Bens.  “Eventually, The Fairmont hopes to use the honeycomb to create candles, soaps and even lip balm,” he adds.

Although honey from the Fairmont’s bees won’t be harvested until the fall, you can try a “Beetini,” a Basil and Honey Daquiri, and other honey-infused cocktails in the hotel’s lobby lounge.