There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Colorado bees are in trouble. Due to pesticide use, drought, and climate change, the Centennial State’s population of hive dwellers has declined 72 percent in the past 25 years—one of the steepest drops in the nation. That’s a problem, because these pollinators play a crucial role in our ecosystem and are responsible for one in every three bites of food we consume. In sweeter news, however, state lawmakers recently passed a bill limiting the use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides in the state, and there are several fiercely dedicated local beekeepers, including these three, caring for their colonies and producing award-winning products in the process.

3 More Ways To Help

  1. Plant bee-friendly native flowers.
  2. Choose pesticide-free seeds and forgo insecticides on your property.
  3. Buy organic produce to reduce agricultural pesticide use.

Bee Squared Apiaries

Berthoud beekeeper Beth Conrey boasts three prestigious Good Food Awards for her products, including a floral, rose-petal-infused honey. Even more impressive is her commitment to supporting pollinators: Between tending her 200-some hives, Conrey co-founded the statewide People and Pollinators Action Network nonprofit and donates two percent of Bee Squared’s gross sales to organizations that protect bees.

Buy: Bee Squared’s Spiced Rum Barrel Aged honey ($15 for 12 ounces), the result of a recent partnership with Lyons’ Spirit Hound Distillers, offers notes of oak, vanilla, and warm spices.

Björn’s Colorado Honey

Third-generation beekeeper Pontus Jakobsson and his wife, Lara Boudreaux, are behind this Front Range honey empire. Named for Jakobsson’s grandfather, who taught his father and him the family trade back in Sweden, Björn’s was born in 2013 and has since grown to encompass 150 hives across Boulder County; retail stores in Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, Littleton, and DIA; and 25 local farmers’ market stands. Those looking to embrace raw honey’s reported medicinal benefits will find myriad options, including honey infused with congestion-clearing oshá root and a variety blended with propolis, a substance made by bees from tree and plant resins purported to have antibacterial properties.

Buy: Björn’s Sweet and Spicy honey ($29 for 10.5 ounces), a collaboration with Pueblo’s Jojo’s Sriracha, is made with Pueblo-grown red jalapeños. Drizzle over pizza crust for what Jolene “Jojo” Collins calls “hipster sopaipillas.”

Homestead in the Hood

In 2019, Sarah and Matt McLean were stung by the beekeeping bug. Their hobby evolved into Homestead in the Hood, a company Matt left his Denver Public Schools teaching job to run full time. With the bounty produced by hives dispersed among their own backyard in Historic Westminster and private properties in Erie, Lakewood, Centennial, and Denver, the couple handmakes everything from beeswax food wraps (a natural, biodegradable alternative to plastic wrap) to candles to specialty honeys flavored with lemon peel. Curious about beekeeping yourself? Homestead in the Hood also offers Beekeeping 101 classes as well as guided beehive tours, during which kids and adults can don bee suits and get an up-close, educational look at what happens inside the hive.

Buy: The palate-warming Winter Warrior honey ($17 for eight ounces) is boosted with bee pollen, clove, ginger, orange peel, and cayenne.

This article was originally published in 5280 September 2023.
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.