How it Happened: Honey Bee Research & Extension Laboratory Building

What do crops like blueberries, watermelon, avocados, almonds, cucumbers, apples, cherries and pumpkins all have in common? They, and many other fruits and vegetables, depend on honey bee pollination to grow. Without honey bees, this nutrient-dense produce would never make it to our kitchen tables.

The UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research & Extension Laboratory logoHoney bees are big in Florida. About 5,000 beekeepers manage more than 650,000 honey bee colonies in the Sunshine State. These bees don’t just pollinate crops in Florida. In fact, Florida contributes about a quarter of all honey bees used for pollination in the U.S. These bees are shipped around the country to pollinate the nation’s crops.

The University of Florida has long supported the state’s beekeepers with research and Extension programs, and in 2018 those efforts were put under one roof with the creation of the UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Education Lab. This multi-building “honey bee campus” became a reality thanks to the vision of Dr. Jamie Ellis, the lobbying of the Florida State Beekeepers Association (FSBA) and the generosity of donors.


A Community Effort

Photo collage of the bee lab in varying stages of construction.
The Bee Lab under construction.

FSBA tenaciously pursued state funding for building a new bee lab that would provide both commercial and hobby beekeepers with the research and Extension programs that benefit this important industry. After three years of lobbying, the lab was partially funded in the state budget, and an extensive fundraising campaign began. Commercial beekeeper Dave Mendes made a lead gift and numerous companies, individuals, and bee clubs from around the country followed.

Construction began in 2017 on the primary lab building, which housed the Extension/research/teaching programs, graduate student and faculty offices, conference room, laboratory, observation hive room and pavilion. The primary building even features some bee-inspired design: The hexagonal front windows emulate the iconic shape of honeycomb cells.

An additional donation supported the construction of a secondary building, the Amy E. Loman Apiculture Center, which houses equipment storage space, the honey extraction/processing room, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ apiary inspection offices, and a museum of beekeeping.


Sweet Success

On August 24, 2018, the Bee Lab was officially opened with dignitaries, administrators, faculty, and beekeepers celebrating the achievement. Since then, the Bee Lab’s faculty and staff have planned and hosted the annual Bee College, published cutting-edge research papers, launched an undergraduate program focused on honey bees, welcomed dozens of visiting faculty from around the world, started Two Bees in a Podcast, held numerous tours, and collaborated with museum studies students to curate all of the bee-themed art and memorabilia that was donated.

Collage of photos: a crowd of people listening to a speaker outside the Bee Lab; UF, IFAS and FSBA leadership cutting the ribbon to open the Bee Lab; Dr. Ellis leading a tour through the yellow, black and grey tiled entrance, a lab room, and an extraction facility; bees in an observation hive; museum artifacts, including asmokers and a wicker statue of St. Ambrose.
Photos from the grand opening, including the ribbon cutting, tour, and museum artifacts.


Click here to take a virtual tour of the bee lab!


The Bee Lab Today

Outside and with bees flying in the air, an instructor who is wearing a hat with a protective veil pours bees from a plastic bin into a measuring cup.The Bee Lab works to advance our understanding of managed and wild bees, with the goal of improving the health and productivity of bees everywhere. Its faculty conduct research, teach UF students, and provide outreach to the public.

  • Current research focuses on pollination, ecology and conservation, with projects examining honey bee pests and pathogens, pesticides, and management.
  • UF undergraduate students can take courses and participate in research projects at the Bee Lab.
  • The Bee Lab engages youth and adults through Extension programs like Florida 4-H, Bee College, and more.
Photo collage: a classroom full of adults at Bee College; a group of teens outside in beekeeping suits around an observation hive; a group of elementary school kids and adults in bee keeping suits around observation hives; a group of adults in the honey extraction room.
Photos from Bee College, 4-H and other Extension events at the Bee Lab.


Thank You

The number of donors from all walks of life who came forward to help fund the Bee Lab was truly spectacular. The passion shown for our faculty, staff and honey bees allowed this project to be the success that it is today.

A special thank you to our building donors:

Amy Lohman
Florida State Beekeepers Association
David Mendes
Dadant & Sons, Inc.
Gordon Clauss & Lois La Seur
Jester Bee
Florida Farm Bureau Federation
Barkman Honey
Dutch Gold Honey
Senator Kevin & Rabbi Amy Rader
Robert Steele Family
Laurence Cutts
D&J Apiary
Gamber Container, Inc.
Peter Teal Family
Helen and David K. McGinnis
Apalachee Beekeepers Association
Busy Bee
Florida Blueberry Growers Association
Jerry Gudauskas
Dwight & Debbie Knight
Linck & Linck LLC
Palm Beach County Beekeepers Association
Pinellas Beekeepers Association
Straughn Farms
Tampa Bay Beekeepers Association
Tupelo Beekeepers Association


Donors pose with the rooms they sponsored at the Bee Lab: Doug McGinnis, Lois La Seur, Gordon Clauss, Laurence Cutts, Barkman Honey, Dadant.
Donors pose with the rooms they sponsored at the Bee Lab grand opening. Philanthropy played a key role in making the Bee Lab a reality.


Want to support the UF/IFAS Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab? Visit the lab’s giving page or contact UF/IFAS Advancement (, 352-392-1975).

The “How it Happened” series showcases the transformational gifts made by donors to UF/IFAS during the University of Florida’s Go Greater Campaign. To learn more about creating your own impact through UF/IFAS programs with a charitable gift, please visit our website at or call the IFAS Advancement office at 352-392-1975.


Posted: August 21, 2023

Category: , UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension, UF/IFAS Research, UF/IFAS Teaching
Tags: Bee Lab, Florida State Beekeepers Association, Go Greater, HBREL, Honey Bees, How It Happened, Philanthropy, UF/IFAS, University Of Florida

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