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Michigan Beekeepers Association

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2024 MBA Fall Conference Speaker Bios

Photo Courtesy of  Melanie Kirby

Melanie Kirby

Keynote Speaker

The bees found Melanie Kirby 28 years ago and continue to teach her about land stewardship, food systems, and diverse world views on conservation and outreach. She co-founded Zia Queenbees Farm & Field Institute located in the southern Rocky Mountains. Melanie is the founder of the Adaptive Bee Breeders Alliance- a coast-to-coast network of bee breeders and scientists. Melanie was recently appointed to the inaugural Pollinator Subcommittee of the National Ag Research, Extension Education, and Economics Advisory Board. She also works as the Extension Educator for the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe running a tribal beekeeping program and conducting pollinator ecology research.

Photo courtesy of Jean Baker

Jean Baker

Jean Baker is a life long gardener who has an Advanced Master Gardener certificate from MSU. She has been a member of Lakeshore Garden Masters in Muskegon for many years. Jean also has been a beekeeper for 4 years and is an active member of Muskegon Area Beekeepers. She has done extensive research on which plants are most helpful for bees, especially those that bloom in early spring and late fall.

Photo Courtesy of Meghan Milbrath

Dr. Meghan Milbrath

Dr. Meghan Milbrath is an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at MSU, where she studies honey bee diseases, focusing on transmission risk and treatment. Dr. Milbrath is also a beekeeper - she began working bees over 25 years ago as a hobby, and since 2011, has run The Sand Hill Apiary, a small livestock and queen rearing operation in Munith, Michigan. She studied biology at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and received degrees in public health from Tulane University and the University of Michigan, where she focused on environmental health sciences and disease transmission risk. Meghan worked as a postdoctoral research associate at Michigan State University, studying nosema disease and in the honey bee lab at Swedish Agricultural University.

Photo Courtesy of John Stephens

John Stephens

John Stephens is half of the workforce of STEPHENS Birds & Bees Homestead, the other half is his wife Mary and, together, they are small, commercial honey producers. John started beekeeping about 17 years ago when Mary was gifted a hive, but he slowly became the primary manager of their colonies. There were good years and bad years of colony survival. 10 years ago was a bad year and the switch to High Density Polstyrene hives was made and the need to buy bees each spring disappeared. John now manages 170-175 production hives, with Mary's help when needed, and overwinters 35-40 nucs. John is a problem-solving kind of guy so, to manage that volume, the switch was made to run all single deep poly hives on 2 way pallets which required him to build his own hive lifting crane for his truck which is also used to lift honey supers during harvest. Together John and Mary extract their entire honey production in their recently licensed honey house. John enjoys teaching kids about honey bees with his observation hive at the farmers market.

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