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Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab

Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab

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 was 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 is known for research 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, as well as activities of the Florida State Beekeepers Association.

In the 1960s and 1970s, perhaps as many as six faculty members in the Department of Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, University of Florida were involved in beekeeping (apicultural) efforts, including Milledge Murphy, who some students still remember as one of their premier professors.  The last of this cadre, was Frank Robinson, who retired in 1985.  He was followed later by Dr. Harvey Cromroy, a prime player in acarology (mite) research, active when tracheal and Varroa honey bee mites were detected in Florida (1984 and 1987) and most recently, Dr. Jim Nation (bee nutrition) in 2004.

The first beekeeping specialist in the Florida Cooperative Extension Service was John D. Haynie. "Honey Haynie" began a newsletter called Hum of the Hive in the 1950s. It 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, ushered into history by the abrupt arrival of Hurricane Andrew in August of that year.  It is considered a pioneering model for many succeeding educational efforts of its kind around the U.S.

Hum of the Hive was taken up by Dr. Danny R. Minnick in September 1971. His "last issue" was written in August of 1972. At that time, 1,800 hundred persons subscribed. Thereafter, Dr. Freddie Johnson sporadically authored the newsletter along with Frank Robinson, until July 1981. The following month's issue was written by Dr. Malcolm T. Sanford, who took the reins of extension apiculture in Florida after a shortened career at The Ohio State University. 

In February 1983, APIS-Apicultural Information and Issuesevolved from Hum of the Hive, taking on a different format with an upgraded logo, and reaching a mailing list of over 3000. The first electronic issue came out in February 1984 on BITNET,  pioneering the electronic computer communication revolution. In 1994, the story of the APIS newsletter was featured in the FARNET publication, 51 Reasons: How We Use the Internet and What it Says About the Information Superhighway.  This  lobbying document was used to educate the U.S. Congress about the value of the National Information Infrastructure (NII), which would finally result in developing the Internet and World Wide Web.  The newsletter continued to be distributed until retirement by Dr. Sanford in 2001, including publishing it from Bologna, Italy in 1989, and producing a special collection of "letters" in 1997 from Aix-en- Provance, France, while on sabbaticals.

In August 2006, Dr. Jamie Ellis joined the Faculty of Entomology and Nematology as Florida's current Professor and Extension Specialist in Apiculture. This hiring was again based on cooperation between the University of Florida, the Florida Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection and the Florida State Beekeepers Association. The appointment resulted in a brand new, one-of-kind facility in 2018, significantly expanding the role of the apicultural program, now housed in the Honey Bee Extension and Research Laboratory (HBREL). Dr. Cameron Jack joined the Faculty of Entomology and Nematology first as a Lecturer in 2018, and then as an Assistant Professor in 2021. Dr. Jack manages the department's beekeeping related instructional program, and conducts applied husbandry and toxicological research on honey bees. Amy Vu joined the laboratory as Extension Coordinator in 2019 and is now the UF/IFAS State Specialized Program Extension Agent in Apiculture. Ms. Vu manages all extension programming and outreach related to honey bees and beekeeping.

Malcolm T. Sanford
Apis Information Resource Center

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