The Bee Research Laboratory, the oldest of the federal bee labs, is located on the USDA's Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Federal honey bee research in the Washington metropolitan area had its beginning in 1891 and, except for a short break in 1896-1897, has been continuous for more than a century.
The first Division of Bee Culture Laboratory was located in Somerset, Maryland, presently a section of Chevy Chase, which borders Washington, DC. The Laboratory was relocated a number of times until 1939 when it was moved to Beltsville, MD.
A list of scientists who have worked in the lab in the past reads like a "who's who" of American beekeeping research. Among them are F. Benton, E.F. Phillips, C.E. Burnside, E. Holst, A.S. Michael, J.I. Hambleton, H.Shimanuki, G.F. White, and G.F. Knowlton.
Continuity of leadership has been a distinguishing feature of the Beltsville lab. Only six scientists have led the lab in its more than 100 years of operation: Dr. Benton, Dr. Phillips, Mr. Hambleton, Mr. Michael, Dr. H. Shimanuki, Mark Feldlaufer, and currently, Dr. Jeffery Pettis. Research on the identification and control of honey bee diseases has always been the major thrust of the lab. For beekeepers and bee industry regulators, not only in the United States, but around the world, "Beltsville" has long been designated as the place they can send bee and brood samples for diagnoses. The bee disease diagnostic service has been a part of the research program at the BRL almost since its inception.