UF/IFAS Partners with the Florida State Beekeepers Association to Protect Bees, Advance the Industry
by TERESA SCHIFFER
FOR SOME YEARS NOW, we’ve been hearing about the plight of the bees and the repercussions that could have on the agricultural community. Besides being the only source of natural, delicious honey, bees are important pollinators. Many of our crops depend on pollinators, so the survival of the bees is vital to our own species’ survival. Almonds, blueberries, melons, cucumbers, and more all depend especially on honey bees for pollination. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is tackling the problems facing bees head-on with their new Honey Bee Lab, in conjunction with the Florida State Beekeepers Association (FSBA). Dr. Jamie Ellis, associate professor of Entymology, will be living on-site and heading the project.
The idea came about when Dr. Ellis was talking with some other beekeepers about the idea of having a state of- the art facility devoted to bringing people together to further research and work in the area. It didn’t take long to get the Florida State Beekeepers Association on board, and in just a few short years of intense fundraising and lobbying, they had $2 million of the $3.5 million needed for the project. “Beekeepers and the FSBA are very much concerned about helping the bees and helping the apiary industry in our state and nationwide,” says Tony Hogg, president of the FSBA. ¬ e Honey Bee Lab is expected to be the best in the nation, if not the world, and is already attracting international researchers to it.
The facility is designed with Dr. Ellis’s unique laboratory requirements in mind throughout, so there are many characteristics specific to the structure. “My team and the University of Florida’s thumbprint is really all over this,” Dr. Ellis explains. “They’re designing it in such a way as to accommodate the research, extension, and educational programming we over through my project.” One such specialization is the inclusion of an indoor hive designed for observational purposes. Dr. Ellis describes the feature: “Glass beehives will be inside the building, but piped outside of the building, so the bees can come and go through specially designed holes in the walls. So, we’re able to observe their behavior from inside the building while the bees are coming and going and functioning in a normal colony.”
There will also be areas typical to beekeeping operations, such as a room to process and bottle honey, plus storage and workshop areas. The construction is expected to be completed in May 2018 with researchers moving arriving in June. In case you are wondering what happens to the honey that will inevitably be produced, unfortunately, it will not be commercially available. It will be offered on campus and supplies are not expected to last long. Besides, producing honey is not the main focus of the operation— research and education are. All in all, the Honey Bee Lab is expected to be a great resource to Central Florida and the apiary industry.