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Toe Cane member wins grant

Michelle Mejia of Green Mountain is one of 15 beekeepers in North Carolina to be awarded the North Carolina Beehive Grant from the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, facilitated by the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association and N.C. Department of Agriculture. The grant covers the cost of equipment for 12 beehives that must be maintained for five years.

Mejia is a member of Toe Cane Beekeepers Association and has been keeping bees for five years. Last year she became a “Certified Beekeeper” by the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association through their Master Beekeeper Program. Only certified beekeepers were eligible for the beehive grant. Mejia maintains her hives in Poplar at Poplar Creek Farm in Mitchell County and plans to keep some of the new hives in the Jacks Creek Community of Yancey County.

“My favorite part of beekeeping is the thrill of luring wild swarms in my swarm traps,” Mejia said. “It’s a misnomer that there are no more wild honeybees, perpetuated by commercial beekeepers and disinformation. Bees have adapted over millions of years to prefer their colonies 20 feet above the ground, where they are safest from predators and therefore out of sight of humans.“

“My experience with commercial-bred lines of bees is they are prone to disease and therefore short lived. My first hive five years ago survived four months before succumbing to a serious case of Deformed Wing Virus -- bees with shriveled wings crawling around the ground below the hive not able to forage or return, resulting in the quick death of the colony. My goal as a beekeeper is to maintain colonies with local genetics and encourage others to do the same. This helps to better ensure long-term survivability and success for all. Commercial bees with bad genes only pollute the favorable qualities of local survivor bees. For short-term survival they require treatments like miticides and antibiotics at a detriment to their health, and is costly to both the beekeeper and environment.”

For more on designing your own bait hives for honey bees and recent data on wild colonies she suggests reading the research of Tom Seeley. He is a Cornell University Graduate and world authority on honey bees. Videos of his talks are also available on YouTube.

Mejia credits Rick Hardy, past president of the Toe Cane beekeepers and a Master Beekeeper, for his guidance in helping her attain the Certified rank, and for his work to create opportunities for beekeepers and others to learn more about the importance of bees.

“I plan to dedicate these new hives to my dearly beloved grandmother, Joan Brookwell, who at 90 began to learn about and enjoy the fascinating life of honey bees with me before her recent passing,” Mejia said.

As spring and swarming season approaches, Mejia looks forward to helping local residents with swarm removal and relocation of wild hives liviing in buildings. She is often available to help capture swarms at little or no cost. Follow her on facebook via her page, Moral Bee Company. She can also be reached at 828-688-1653, or through her farmstay website

Michelle Mejia stands by two swarms she caught in 2017. With her bait hives she no longer has to climb trees to retrieve her swarms."

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