Bees Love Cannabis! Researchers Discover Hemp Could Help Restore Bee Populations

Hemp provides bees excellent nutrition when they need it most, new study finds

Hemp attracts bees in droves, a new study finds.

Researchers tested several strains and found bees – both wild and domestic – love them all, especially the taller varieties.

It’s an unusual finding considering cannabis doesn’t possess the sweet nectar or bright colors typical of flowers that attract pollinators.

The researchers speculate it’s something to do with the plentiful pollen found in hemp flowers.

On top of that, hemp blooms right when bees need it the most – between the end of July and the end of September – right when other pollinator-friendly flowers disappear.

Expanding hemp cultivation in the United States could provide food for the bees during a time of year when few other options are available to them, the researchers note.

In a preliminary study last summer, researchers from Colorado State University came to similar conclusions.

They set up bee traps in industrial hemp fields during peak flowering season and collected almost 2,000 bees from 23 different bee genera.

Nearly half of those were classic honeybees, but native solitary bees, such as Melissodes bimaculata and Peponapis pruinosa, turned up in surprisingly “high proportions.”

“Industrial hemp can play an important role in providing sustained nutritional options for bees during the cropping season,” wrote study author Colton O’Brien, a soil and crop scientist for Colorado State University.

The researchers note that earlier experiments looking at crops like genetically modified canola flowers didn’t produce the same volume or variety of bees.

In addition to food, hemp provides habitat.

On a continent where much of the acreage is dedicated to non-pollen producing mono-crops covered in bee-harming insecticides, introducing more pollinating crops is critical to the survival of bees and the ecosystems they occupy.

Fortunately, the 2018 Farm Bill, passed in December legalized hemp production in the United States. 80,000 acres are already under cultivation, with permits for another 15,000 acres awaiting approval.

So far, studies have only looked at non-psychoactive hemp, but if this French beekeeper’s bees are any indication, future studies could prove bees love THC-containing cannabis too!

Author: Sara Burrows

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Study published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Entomological Society of America: The Bee Community of Cabbabis Saliva and Corresponding Effects of Landscape Compostion… Authors Nathaniel Ryan Flicjer, Katja Poveda, Heather Grab. All rights reserved.

Abstract:

Industrial hemp, Cannabis sativa (Cannabaceae), is a newly introduced and rapidly expanding crop in the American agricultural landscape. As an exclusively wind-pollinated crop, hemp lacks nectar but produces an abundance of pollen during a period of floral dearth in agricultural landscapes. These pollen resources are attractive to a range of bee species but the diversity of floral visitors and their use of hemp across a range of agricultural contexts remains unclear. We made repeated sweep net collections of bees visiting hemp flowers on farms in New York, which varied in both landscape context and phenotypic traits of hemp varieties. We identified all bee visitors to the species level and found that hemp supported 16 different bee species. Landscape simplification negatively impacted the abundance of bees visiting hemp flowers but did not affect the species richness of the community. Plant height, on the other hand, was strongly correlated with bee species richness and abundance for hemp plots with taller varieties attracting a broader diversity of bee species. Because of its temporally unique flowering phenology, hemp has the potential to provide a critical nutritional resource to a diverse community of bees during a period of floral scarcity and thereby may help to sustain agroecosystem-wide pollination services for other crops in the landscape. As cultivation of hemp increases, growers, land managers, and policy makers should consider its value in supporting bee communities and take its attractiveness to bees into account when developing pest management strategies.

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