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Thursday, January 20, 2022

State beekeepers ask for money to build UF research facility

Bee researchers are abuzz over the possibility of a new bee research facility at UF.

The Florida State Beekeepers Association has asked for $3.5 million in legislative funding to hopefully create the largest honeybee research facility in the southeast.

As part of the Florida beekeepers mission to make Florida a national leader in bee research, the facility will focus on honeybee husbandry, biodiversity, ecology and integrated crop pollination.

James “Jamie” D. Ellis Jr., UF associate professor of entomology, said the facility would put UF in a better position to receive national grants and visits from international researchers.

“We have the ability to impact the national beekeeping scene here in our state,” he said. “Beekeepers recognize that, and they’re lobbying so hard to make this a premier place to do beekeeping instruction.”

Gainesville resident and state Rep. Keith Perry requested that Florida TaxWatch, an independent taxpayer research institute, perform an economic evaluation on the proposed facility to “determine the potential return for the state of Florida and its taxpayers.”

The report, completed by TaxWatch, concluded the facility will increase tax revenue to more than $1 million, reduce beekeeping costs and provide benefits to agriculture producers.

A laboratory inside the facility will be used for research and for teaching. According to the report, the laboratory would have “a hive viewing area, so students and visitors can watch live beehives in action.”

Chappie McChesney, local beekeeper and founder of North Central Florida Beekeepers Association, said although UF bee researchers are top notch, they’re in need of a new facility with new equipment.

“They don’t have enough room to work,” he said.

Unlike other universities with bee programs, UF would be able to complete bee research year-round because Florida serves as a winter nursery for bees migrating away from colder weather.

According to the USDA, in 2012 there were about 199,000 honey-producing colonies in Florida, but bee colonies have been declining due to colony collapse disorder. This so-far unexplained phenomena of bee disappearances is an issue the facility plans to research.

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Tom Nolan, president of the Florida State Beekeepers Association, said Florida beekeepers are excited to see how the facility will help improve beekeeping in Florida.

“We have a vulnerable situation in the state of Florida,” he said. “We’ve finally hit the point where we can’t wait any longer for increased research on the problems of honeybees.”

[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 3/24/2014 under the headline "State beekeepers ask for money to build UF research facility"]

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