Hemp provides bees excellent nutrition when they need it most, study finds
Hemp attracts bees in droves, a recent study found.
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!