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Japan’s first lady is establishing a honeybee colony, taking a cue from Michelle Obama

Steve Mollman
By Steve Mollman

Weekend editor

Michelle Obama’s beehive at the White House has inspired Japan’s first lady to follow suit.

Akie Abe, who in April met the Obamas in Washington, recently announced she’ll establish a colony of 8,000 to 10,000 Japanese honeybees at the official residence of the Japanese prime minister, her husband Shinzo Abe. The Ginza Honey Bee Project, a Tokyo-based nonprofit that encourages rooftop beekeeping, will help her with the project.

In Washington, the first ladies compared notes on the alarming decline of the honeybee. In the US, about 42% of the honeybee colonies died between April 2014 and April 2015. The reasons are still not entirely clear, though evidence suggests pesticides and mites play a role. In May, the White House published a report (pdf) on a national strategy for promoting the health of honeybees and other pollinators, calling for less pesticides and more pastureland.

Akie has a strong interest in agriculture and food safety, and already grows pesticide-free rice in the Yamaguchi prefecture. She also plays a more high-profile role than has been traditional for Japan’s first ladies, who have tended to stay quietly in the background. Far from being the submissive wife, the former radio DJ has publicly disagreed with her husband on various issues, including coming out against nuclear power.

If all goes to plan, honey will be harvested from her honeybee colony in the autumn.

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