in partnership
Rachel Abrahams checks on her bee hives. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/DC Refined)

The secret life of bees in Congressional Cemetery

If you walk through the peaceful grounds of Congressional Cemetery, you'll eventually here a faint buzzing sound - bees.

In recent years, there's been a surge of interest in urban beekeeping, the practice of maintaining bee hives and taking care of their residents. With the rise of Colony Collapse Disorder, where a colony's worker bees disappear, effectively killing the hive, urban beekeeping can seem like a way to actively support the environment.

According to Toni Burnham, president of D.C. Beekeepers Alliance, there are 18 hives at Congressional Cemetery, two of which are taken care of by Rachel Abrahams. A government analyst by day, Rachel's been taking care of bees for two summers - in that time, she's never been stung. She dons her white beekeeping suit and gloves before heading to the rooftop of a groundkeeper's shed, where she keeps her hives. Her duties include bringing sugar water for her bees, making sure they haven't been invaded by beetles and generally maintaining her hives.

"There are so many threats to bees these days, and I wanted to get involved in supporting their development in an urban setting," she explained. "But then you learn how freaking cool they are and they become a joy to keep just for their own sake."

Maintaining hives in Congressional Cemetery has also proven beneficial for the bees. "(There are) lots of foraging opportunities close by and a quiet neighborhood means they won't be disturb anyone," Rachel said. However, she admits it's fun for her too. "It's also such a beautiful spot, I feel privileged I get to spend time there!"

Editor's note: Rachel Abrahams is the author's roommate.