According to research shown in multiple studies over the past year, growing more cannabis and hemp could help to maintain and increase the bee populations that have become dangerously low in recent years.
This discovery began last year, with a study published in the journal Biomass and Bioenergy, conducted by researchers at Colorado State University, who set up harm-free traps for bees at large hemp farms throughout the state. They spent about five days during peak growing season collecting bees from the various farms to see how many were attracted to the hemp crops. They chose to work with hemp specifically because of the federal laws against cannabis, but both hemp and cannabis plants produce large amounts of pollen, so bees are often attracted to them. These plants are especially attractive to bees because they are “wind-pollinated, dioecious and staminate.”
The abstract of the study explained that, “A total of 23 different genera of bees were collected of which the European honeybee, Apis mellifera at 38% of the total abundance was the most dominant followed by Melissodes bimaculata at 25% and Peponapis pruinosa at 16%. These three genera made up nearly 80% of the total abundance. “
Essentially, these plants produce a large amount of pollen, which means that the crop could be a great benefit to bee populations as the industry continues to grow.
“While hemp does not produce any nectar, the pollen rich nature of the flowers can make hemp an ecologically valuable crop. In addition, access to crucial phytochemicals through pollen and nectar from diverse plant sources is important for improved survival and pathogen tolerance in honey bees. Further studies analyzing the nutritive value of hemp pollen, would provide strong evidence in support of the ecological benefits,” the study concluded.
However, the researchers also voiced concerns that there will be an issue with pests on the crops as the industry expands. This could lead to companies using various pesticides, which will interfere with their ability to pollinate, and could even potentially harm bees.
“Our results documenting bee diversity in flowering hemp provides the impetus for the development of integrated pest management plans that protect pollinators while controlling pests,” the researchers advised.
A follow-up study was conducted by researchers at Cornell University in December of 2019, and they published their findings in the journal of Environmental Entomology. The study confirmed that planting cannabis and hemp could be very good for bee populations. The researchers also found that while bees like both hemp and cannabis, they tend to prefer hemp.
The studies authors also note that the size of the plant makes a big difference as well.
“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,” the study said.
There are some companies who are already looking at ways to develop cannabis products with bees in mind. The Israeli cannabis technology company PhytoPharma International developed a natural cannabinoid-dosed honey that allows bees to fuse THC and CBD into their honey using a special process.
Bees are extremely important to the global ecosystem and their decreasing populations has become a growing concern for scientists and environmentalists around the world. The hemp and cannabis industry is one of the fastest-growing businesses in the global economy now too, so this is good news for bees!