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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Busy bee: UF beekeeping lab opens after six years of planning

<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-599e0977-7fff-8d7c-e860-e4081b8b0163"><span>Onlookers watch bees work in awe Saturday in the Observation Room at the Honey Bee Lab’s grand opening. At the event, artifacts are on put on display from age-old beekeeping methods. The Honey Bee Lab is located at 1881 Natural Area Drive.</span></span></p>

Onlookers watch bees work in awe Saturday in the Observation Room at the Honey Bee Lab’s grand opening. At the event, artifacts are on put on display from age-old beekeeping methods. The Honey Bee Lab is located at 1881 Natural Area Drive.

A new addition to UF’s campus has people buzzing.

Students, faculty and beekeepers from around the state swarmed UF’s new $4.5 million honeybee research lab Saturday.

The lab held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday followed by an open house Saturday, which attracted more than 1,000 attendees. The new facility houses everything from bee colony observation rooms to a beekeeping museum. The project was paid for by the Florida State Beekeepers Association, UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and state funding.

Although construction began in October 2017, the concept of the honeybee lab has been in the works for six years, said Branden Stanford, lab manager. The project was roadblocked when Gov. Rick Scott vetoed allocating money for the lab.

They secured state funding for the lab two attempts later, contingent upon the beekeepers contributing at least $200,000, said Tom Nolan, fundraising chair for the bee lab.

The Florida State Beekeepers Association raised $1.4 million for the lab — seven times its original goal, Nolan said.

“What we were looking for were people who had the vision, ability and willingness to give money, and it took two years to do that,” Nolan said.

The donations allowed the plans to expand from a one-building facility to a three-building campus with a teaching center, outdoor pavilion, museum and more, he said.  

“There is nothing else like this facility anywhere else in the world,” he said.

Branden Pearson, a UF management sophomore, attended the open house to see how the facility will help expand UF’s presence in the beekeeping industry.

“This is a resource I think is really going to propel our college of agriculture,” Pearson said.

Onlookers watch bees work in awe Saturday in the Observation Room at the Honey Bee Lab’s grand opening. At the event, artifacts are on put on display from age-old beekeeping methods. The Honey Bee Lab is located at 1881 Natural Area Drive.

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