Lauren Roberts, first-year entomology and nematology student, has had the support of the Gator Nation in developing a project that is now recognized as top in the nation.
This week, the 93rd National FFA Convention and Expo is celebrating the accomplishments of FFA members across the nation. Roberts, a former Trenton FFA member, is a finalist for the American Star in Agriscience award for her research with honey bees. This award is for FFA members who demonstrate the top agriscience-based supervised agricultural experience in the nation.
Roberts completed research in the area of colony collapse disorder in honeybees. She began her research in high school and has since collaborated with faculty and graduate students at the Univeristy of Florida to develop a nonlethal repellent for honey bees that is currently in the patent process.
I started conducting research in high school that chased the idea of developing a nonlethal repellent for honey bees that could be sprayed onto crops such as watermelon and would keep the bees away from crops as the pesticide degrades, leading to a happy grower, beekeeper and forager bee. I gained confidence from my projects to venture out and start my bee business called The Pink Hives. Working my own bee hives has given me the opportunity to understand the hardships beekeepers face.
How did you become interested in honey bees?
My fascination with honey bees began when I was pushed into giving a speech about the honey bee decline at 13 years old. If only I had known then how much I would grow in knowledge of the industry and its importance to agriculture and our everyday life. For centuries, humans have held honey bees in a romantic light and I fell into the same pattern because you are constantly learning something new and interesting. One fact I learned early that surprised me was that a honey bee colony is not only comprised of thousands of bees with a queen, workers,and drones but the entire colony works as functioning unit which can be described as a “super-organism.” I thought if only people took lessons from honey bees we would have healthy levels of productivity and peace! The way bees behave with one another has left me in awe and if I can share models of how bees work, maybe our society will follow suit one day too.
How does it feel to be a finalist for the American Star in Agriscience award?
It doesn’t feel real to have reached this pinnacle in my FFA career with my honey bee research. I am grateful to all of those who pushed me. I hope that my story to never be afraid to ask questions in the pursuit of your passion will inspire another young mind. I am grateful for the gator nation as I collaborated with Dr. Jamie Ellis and graduate students at the Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab, Dr. Andrew Thoron in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, and Jordan Callaham at the UF Space Plant Lab during different studies in the pursuit of my long term goal.
How do you plan to celebrate this week as National Convention is being hosted virtually?
I am looking forward to spending the time meeting with sponsors before the session including Elanco Animal Health, CASE IH Agriculture and Syngenta. I plan to watch the session with my parents and my high school FFA advisor/research mentor and celebrate with chips and salsa from El Toro restaurant in Alachua.
Roberts was recognized virtually on Wednesday, October 28 during session 4. Sessions can be viewed on RFDTV and on the National FFA Organization Facebook page.