Thanks to a combination of state and private funding, a long-sought Bee and Pollinator Research Lab is taking shape on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. A second new facility at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska will serve as a showcase for the bee lab’s work.
Construction will begin this fall on the 10,500-square-foot facility, which will pull together the university’s current bee-related projects onto a single site and add staff and lab capacity for added research and collaborations with other institutions. The new building will have space and equipment for labs, honey extraction, observation hives and offices.
In an article written for “Bee Lines,” a Minnesota State Fair publication for the fair’s bee exhibit, entomology professor Marla Spivak wrote that in addition to the research capacity, the lab “will provide space for our growing Bee Squad to more effectively mentor urban beekeepers and expand their programming.”
The site for the new lab is on the north end of the campus, off Gorton Avenue, near the existing horticulture demonstration garden.
Landscaping around the building will demonstrate bee-friendly approaches, as well as “providing a beautiful public face for the St. Paul campus,” Spivak wrote.
In conjunction with building the new lab, the university has welcomed Dan Cariveau to the entomology staff. Cariveau specializes in native bees and their place in ecosystems. His past research includes studying the effectiveness of conservation efforts and the interaction of bees with crop pests.
Spivak, who will continue leading research on honeybees, said there are more than 425 species of native bees in Minnesota. The new facility will allow consolidated research in the many types of bees and their roles in their environments.
“There are other bee research labs across the nation,” Spivak wrote in an email to the Bugle, “but only one that combines honey bee and native bee studies (at the University of California–Davis). So in that regard, our labs (ours and UC-Davis) are unique in the nation.”
Like its research, the department’s public outreach involves both honeybees and wild bees. Bee Squad activists serve as mentors and instructors for diverse groups including farmers, military veterans, and gardeners who want to make their lawns more friendly to bees. Their concerns include pest control, pollination, urban and rural environments, and sustainable agriculture.
Spivak noted that the lab’s research reaches beyond the local landscape, as well. “We already have lots of international collaborations and graduate students,” she wrote, “but Dan [Cariveau] will bring in new collaborations and students.”
While public access to the bee lab will be limited to enjoying the grounds around it, Spivak said, the department’s expansion also includes a new public outreach project at the University of Minnesota’s arboretum in the western suburb of Chaska.
“For direct public interaction,” Spivak wrote, “we hope people will visit the Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center, which is designed to educate and awe the public, from adults to school bus loads of children.”
Construction of the Bee and Pollinator Research Lab has been funded by $4 million in bonding from the state Legislature; total cost is estimated at $6 million. Private funds are still being raised for the bee lab as well as for the Tashjian center at the arboretum.