Beekeeper Pushes Through UF Bee Research Facility

October 26
6:00 AM 2016

After years of fighting the Florida state legislature for funds, the University of Florida is on its way to building a new facility on campus - a state-of-the-art bee lab.

The UF Build The Bee Lab will feature a research, extension and instruction facility and is designed to become a hub for both national and international researchers, beekeepers and students.

The Florida State Beekeepers Association, a group of beekeeping representatives from around the state, decided that as a state with over 4,000 registered beekeepers, Florida needed a facility to aid bee research.

Scientists hope the lab will help save our food supply by fighting threats killing off huge numbers of honeybees.

Quarrier makes and sells wild flower honey from about 100 hives that each hold more than 50,000 winged pollinators. He sells mostly to wholesalers but also sells bottles to people in his community.

Beekeepers lost 44 percent of their bees from issues like varroa mites, starvation and bad queen bees between April 2015 and April 2016, according to an annual national Bee Informed Partnership survey. The significant losses caused concern among the FSBA and burdened beekeepers who were forced to donate time, money, energy and resources to recover what they had lost.

Ellis oversees a roughly 25-person bee research team at the University of Florida. But despite that positive note, Ellis says bees are in trouble, as several factors have killed off 30 percent of their colonies worldwide over the last decade. And when bees are in trouble, we are too.

Organizers weren't giving up without a fight. On the third attempt, a deal was struck with lawmakers. State legislators would put up $2 million if the beekeepers' group chipped in $200,000 and UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences put in $500,000.

The organization has raised about $350,000 of that $1 million goal, and expects to raise the rest by year's end.

Once the new lab is built, Harris expects club members will be among the first to learn the latest beekeeping techniques.

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