History of the Apiculture Program at the University of Florida

The University of Florida beekeeping (apiculture) program goes back to 1929, when Dr. Wilmon Newell, the first Plant Commissioner for the Florida State Plant Board subsequently appointed to direct the University of Florida’s College of Agriculture as well as its Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service. Dr. Newell held the title of Provost of Agriculture from 1938 until his death in October 1943 and his research areas included control methods or the cotton boll weevil, Argentine ant, and American foul brood in honey bees. The Florida State Plant Board later became the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which now administers Florida's honey bee inspection program. This regulatory activity continues to have a close relationship with both the University's apicultural research and teaching efforts and lobbying initiatives by the Florida State Beekeepers Association.

The 1940s and 1950s saw the University of Florida's beekeeping program gradually gain prestige and credibility. It crystallized around the efforts of Dr. Milledge Murphey and Professor Frank A. Robinson as part of the now Department of Entomology and Nematology. The Milledge Murphey Memorial Scholarship Fund was created in 1977 to honor Dr. Murphey's teaching efforts, principally in beekeeping. Professor Robinson directed a number of practical studies on honey bees and actively cooperated with Florida's first extension beekeeping specialist, John D. Haney, who began a newsletter called "Hum of the Hive" in the 1950s that was regularly published until his retirement in 1971. Mr. Haynie also began the Florida Beekeepers Institute in 1957, a short course that traveled around the state. This was discontinued in 1992, but is considered the pioneer model for many succeeding educational efforts of its kind in the U.S.

"Hum of the Hive" was taken up by Dr. Danny R. Minnick in September 1971. He and Dr. Freddie Johnson sporadically authored the newsletter, along with Professor Frank Robinson, until July 1981. The following month's newsletter issue was written by Dr. Malcolm T. Sanford, who published it as the "Apis Newsletter" continuously until retiring as Professor Emeritus in 2001. In August 2006, Dr. Jamie Ellis joined the faculty as Florida's next extension specialist/researcher in apiculture. This hiring was again based on cooperation between the University of Florida, the Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection and the Florida State Beekeepers Association. A current effort to expand the facilities of the apicultural program, now known as the Honey Bee Extension and Research Laboratory (HBREL), is underway as beekeeping education and research continue to be an increasingly important part of Florida agriculture.

- Historical overview provided by Dr. Malcolm Sanford

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