Bees are big fans of hemp and a recent study has shown that the taller the hemp plants, the more bees flock to them. The new research, conducted by researchers at Cornell University and published last month in the journal Environmental Entomology, shows that humans are not the only fans of hemp. The results also reinforce a study published last year at Colorado State University that found the same thing.
The study shows that bees are highly attracted to cannabis because of the plant’s abundant pollen reserves, and could open the way for scientists to find new ways to support their struggling population as well as the flower populations.
According to the study, the larger the area covered by the hemp plant, the more likely it is that bees will swarm in the area. Besides, larger hemp plants are much more likely to attract bees, with taller plants attracting 17 times more bees than shorter plants.
The study also found that over time, more and more bees visited the hemp plots more frequently. As in humans, this is almost like the effect of word of mouth, as bees pass on good tips to each other.
Researchers also found that the multi-application commercial hemp crop can support as many as 16 different varieties of bees as in the northeastern United States.
The results may seem odd given that cannabis does not produce the sweet nectar that other typical flower varieties produce to attract insects. The hemp flower also lacks the bright colors that attract insects. However, the pollen produced by the male flowers is very attractive to the 16 subspecies of bees in the study for reasons that are still unknown.
Female flowers, the kind that humans like to smoke for its intoxicating and soothing effects, are basically ignored by bees because these plants do not secrete nectar and are considered non-melliferous and non-pollinating.
The author of the study wrote
“The rapid expansion of hemp production in the United States… may have important implications for pollination dynamics on an ecosystem scale.
As a late-season crop that flowers during a period of seasonal flower shortage, hemp may have particularly strong potential to improve pollinator populations and subsequent pollination services for crops the following year by filling gaps in late-season resource scarcity.
What makes the results so compelling is the crucial impact this could have on suffering bee populations across the United States.
A healthy farm economy requires a healthy beekeeping industry
The bee is perhaps one of the most important pollinators in agriculture. Propagate male sex cells from flowers to their female counterparts in a natural process that is very crucial for plant reproduction.
Many crops would not exist without bees at the time of flowering. Crop yield and quality would be greatly reduced without pollination by bees.
Every year, American farmers and producers continue to feed more people using less land. They produce an abundance of safe, nutritious food. Honeybees are an integral part of this modern agricultural success story. It is estimated that there are about 2.7 million bee colonies in the United States today, two-thirds of which travel across the country each year to pollinate crops and produce honey and beeswax. California’s almond industry requires about 1.8 million honey bee colonies to adequately pollinate nearly one million hectares of almond orchards.
When bees collect pollen and nectar for their survival, they pollinate crops such as apples, cranberries, melons, and broccoli. Some crops, such as cherries, are 90% dependent on bee pollination.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, pollinators are worth between $235 billion and $577 billion worldwide because of their pivotal role in the production of the world’s crops. In the United States alone, this means that bees are responsible for $20 billion of national agricultural production. Without bees, we can say goodbye to almonds, blueberries, melons, watermelons, and other crops.
The authors of the study made it clear that the combination of bees and hemp did not mean that people had to worry that cannabinoid-rich pollen would creep into their diets and that bees would not begin to produce honey enriched with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as pleasant as that might seem.
Similarly, the presence of cannabinoids such as THC in hemp pollen is unlikely to have an impact on the development of bees due to the loss of cannabinoid receptors in insects.
So, while we often like to focus on the recreational or medicinal use of cannabis Sativa L, in its edible, smokable and vaporizable forms, this new research shows that the plant can actually help nature and agriculture in incredibly important ways.