Defend Our Future hosts panelists to discuss importance of healthy bees

Audrey Weiss

Man speaks into microphone.
Don Studinski introduces himself at the Defend Our Bees event in the Lory Student Center on Feb. 12, 2018. (Anna Baize | Collegian)

If you’re struggling to watch what you eat, start by looking at the bees.

Defend Our Future hosted the Defend Our Bees event Monday at Colorado State University.


Rachel Melton, a sophomore English education major moderated the event, asked panelists questions regarding bees and sustainability.

Panelists included Don Studinski, entrepreneur and beekeeper; Beth Conrey, owner of Bee Squared Apiaries and co-founder of People and Pollinators Action Network; Josh Vaisman, a Northern Colorado Beekeepers Association representative; and Justin Scharton, the Nature in the City project manager.

According to Conrey, approximately one-third of all produce in the human diet is provided by bee-pollinated plants.

“Do you like to eat?” Conrey said. “Because, if you do, they’re very important.”

Panelists listed pollination, honey, propolis and beeswax as resources that bees provide and how they contribute to the ecosystem.

“Basically everything in the beehive is edible and has medicinal properties,” Studinski said.

What’s more, bees serve as a “canary in a coal mine” in the sense that when something is affecting native pollinators, it is evident in the health of the bees, according to Vaisman.

Conrey discussed Colorado Pesticide Laws, which aim to prevent and regulate pesticide usage. The laws are sidestepped due to loopholes within their regulations. Additionally, the labels required for pesticides available for purchase in stores are specific to honey bees and not local pollinators.

The panelists agreed that urban farmers actually have a drastic impact on pollinators when using pesticides to a larger extent even than agricultural farmers.

According to Conrey, the solution is for urban farmers and growers to simply stop treating their plants with pesticides all together.


“Making a commitment to yourself to not use pesticides and herbicides … is a huge step,” Vaisman said.

Climate change will additionally impact bees in several ways, such as survivability based on a number of available resources, according to Vaisman.

But, honeybees are not the only pollinators that will be affected by climate change. Studinski said that native pollinators are going to be the hardest hit by climate change.

“A honey bee will visit many kinds of flowering plants,” Studinski said. “Native bees are not so much generalists. They have a much more limited set.”

Panelists stressed the importance of community involvement in taking steps toward saving and caring for bees.

Specifically, Schraton is working for the City of Fort Collins in order to help residents on all spectrums of bee caregiving.

“Wherever you live, think about what kind of habitat you can provide,” Schraton said.

“Wherever you live, think about what kind of habitat you can provide,” Justin Schraton, Nature in the City project manager

Schraton suggested considering the four components of habitat: space, food, water and shelter.

“There are always opportunities to get engaged at any level, from right here on campus, all the way up to the state and federal levels,” Conrey said. “I encourage you to look for those opportunities because they’re out there and people want to hear your voice.”

Schranton recommended considering individual participation, whether by planting flowers in a backyard or on a balcony, or even taking up beekeeping.

On this note, Studinski noted his hopes for changing the paradigm of beekeeping from a condensed and heavy load of information, to an extensive and more immersive educational experience.

“Bees collect honey not because they like us, (but) they collect nectar to collect honey for themselves,” Vaisman said.

With that being said, bees are an integral part of the ecosystem and climate change has a negative impact on them, according to Studinski.

“The choice is up to us,” Schranton said. “This choice is up to us of how we respond to it, how we try to mitigate it, and how we try to turn this massive ship that is climate change in the right direction.”

Collegian reporter Audrey Weiss can be reached at or on Twitter @Audkward.