Second lady Karen Pence has opened their government residence to more than a few new inhabitants: honeybees. At least 15,000 of them. Pence showed off the beehive Tuesday, reports the AP, partly to draw attention to a decline in managed bee colonies that she and other officials say could negatively affect US agricultural production. One of three bites of food taken in the United States is possible with the help of pollinators such as bees, butterflies, birds, and bats, she said at the sprawling Naval Observatory compound. Managed honeybee colonies add at least $15 billion dollars a year in crop value by increasing yields and helping ensure quality harvests. But a years-long decline in honeybee colonies "presents a serious challenge to our ability to produce many of the agricultural products that we sell and enjoy today," Pence said.
Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are among 90 or so crops that managed honeybees pollinate for farmers, she said. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who attended the unveiling, said Pence was a "great example" of what everyone can to do help honeybees. Pence installed a beehive at their official residence in Indiana and thought it would be helpful to do the same in Washington. The bees at the Pences' residence will help the flower and vegetable gardens on the property, where kale, lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, and radishes grow. The honey they produce will be given away. "The great thing about honey is it doesn't spoil," Pence said. Former first lady Michelle Obama included a beehive with the White House garden she started in 2009, also to help with pollination. The Obama White House used the honey in meals, in addition to bottling and gifting it. (Read more Karen Pence stories.)