University of Florida opens new honey bee lab

Facility to support beekeeping, agriculture

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Nearly 20 percent of food consumed in the world is made possible by honey bees, and behind each of these hardworking pollinators is an equally hardworking beekeeper or scientist who helps them thrive.

The University of Florida's Honey Bee Program has been around since the 1920s, but will mark the completion of a new honey bee headquarters this month on campus, said Jamie Ellis, Gahan Endowed Associate Professor of Entomology in UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

"The Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory is a series of three buildings -- it's a mini bee campus. One of the buildings, the Amy E. Lohman Apiculture Center, will house the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Apiary Inspection team, a beekeeping museum, a honey extraction and processing facility, and workshop space," said Ellis, who also heads the Honey Bee Lab.

The Amy E. Lohman Apiculture Center is named for one of the project's key supporters. 

"The Lohman Center will serve our research, extension and instruction efforts related to honey bees and beekeeping," said Ellis. "We will be able to teach students and beekeepers how to build beekeeping equipment, extract and process honey, develop strategies for adding value to their beekeeping products, control honey bee pests and pathogens, and run a beekeeping business."

Lohman's gift has also established a lasting resource for honey bee research, education and outreach. 

"I think it's important to highlight that Ms. Lohman's gift is a legacy gift. Sure, Ms. Lohman and other beekeepers like her will benefit from this today. However, this facility will survive well into the future and be a place where thousands of students and beekeepers are trained," Ellis said. "This education will translate into healthier bees that, in turn, will continue to provide the pollination services that our crops so desperately need. Thus, I feel that Ms. Lohman's gift is an example of selfless altruism. She really is working to save the beekeeper and the bees."

In addition to Lohman, many have come together to fund the entire lab, including he Florida State Beekeepers Association, hundreds of beekeepers, industry supporters and businesses from around the country. 

The Honey Bee Lab is located next to Steinmetz Hall on the southwest corner of campus. One of the buildings will have a room in which glass bee hives are kept, allowing visitors to look directly into the active hives. The complex will also house hundreds of thousands of bees in its outdoor apiary.

"In addition to providing a space for our outreach programs, researchers and students, we have been intentional in making this a space where the public can learn about beekeeping and the importance of bees to our food system," said Ellis.