Karhlyle Fletcher   |   January 27, 2022

Will Hemp Help Restore the Bee Population?

From cannabinoid protection to nutrient-rich pollen, outdoor hemp cultivation may help save the bees.
Detroiter Karhlyle Fletcher is the host of High Lit, a cannabis research and classic literature podcast featuring leading voices and independent music. In addition to years in written and video cannabis journalism, he is also a traditional author.

While consumable hemp requires a significant amount of attention from the farmer, it's not reliant on bees or other pollinators. On the flip side, outdoor cannabis cultivation may actually benefit bees.

The Protective and Productive Effects of Cannabinoids Extend to Bees

Rather than relying on bees to pollinate, hemp is a wind-pollinated plant. Additionally, cannabis and hemp plants don't produce floral nectar - a necessary component for bees to create honey. So, it isn't as simple as getting bees to harvest from hemp or cannabis to produce cannabinoid-infused honey.

However, this doesn't mean that bees can't produce cannabinoid-infused honey. Cousin Andy's, a cannabis brand, found that feeding their bees a special cannabinoid-treated syrup resulted in many benefits. First, the hive given the syrup ended up being the largest and most productive on their farm. Second, the honey they produced tested positive for both THC and CBD.

Bees thriving under the influence of cannabis is no surprise. One of the greatest threats to bees is the use of pesticides. In 2018 researchers proved that bees develop a preference for plants treated with neonicotinoids, a common pesticide, over time. 2020 research from Poland found that bees exposed to pesticides treated with CBD lived as long as bees without exposure. Based on the available information, bee populations are being decimated by pesticides and other chemicals used in farming. It is also plausible that cannabinoids pose a possible protective element against these substances.

Outdoor Cannabis Grows Provide Nutrient-Dense Pollen

In addition to the protective effects consuming cannabis may have for bees, cannabis is also an excellent pollen source. The flowering period of cannabis, like the end of July to the end of September in Colorado, is during a dearth of pollen production. 2019 research found 23 different genera of bees collecting pollen from plants in Colorado. Of these bees, the European honeybee was most dominant.

Other 2019 research found 16 different bee species used hemp farms to collect pollen in New York. Also of note from that research, taller plants specifically were more attractive to the bee populations. That suggests that hemp varieties that grow taller may be better for bees, but also taller hemp varieties have advantageous qualities for industrial purposes. Here synchronicity might be showing through, where the best option for industrial application may also benefit the native populations.

Yet, as every piece of research and discussion on the topic states, pest management is a pressing threat to the bee population. Fortunately, pest management can vary from chemical baths to simply balancing the ecology of a farm. Ladybugs are an example of integrated pest management and a popular method among outdoor farmers. Encouraging a healthy seasonal migration of insects such as ladybugs, bees, and other beneficial insects can often replace the need for any chemical solution.

Additional options include releasing beneficial insects via drone, disrupting mating patterns by putting out pheromones to confuse insects, and releasing sterilized populations. With the synergy between hemp and bees, it would be a waste to see industrial hemp farms rely on harsh chemicals. Not only do pesticides threaten the native ecology, but they are also carcinogenic and pose many health threats to humans.

High-Tech Beehives Help Hemp Farms and Bees Thrive

As shared above, cannabis is a profound rotational crop that offers an alternative for farms to help repair their fields. By including hemp on their property, their soil can go through the process of phytoremediation, and bees can thrive with an additional pollen source.

So while bees might not produce honey from cannabis or help the plant pollinate, they can redefine a farm's capacity.

BeeWise is a technology solution for those interested in a permanent bee population. Through automation, BeeWise tracks each bee in its high-tech beehives, allowing for individualized care and preserving the hive. This reinvented beehive prevents pests from accessing the hive, in addition to providing a bit of HVAC to ensure the bees are thriving.

With such a well-crafted setup mixed with an adequately diversified farm, hemp cultivators could prove to be one of the bees' dearest allies. Even without such technology, hemp farmers are one of the necessary crutches bees rely on to maintain the populations surviving to this day.

By working with bee populations, farmers can start to maintain several streams of income through alternative crop production and extract honey from hives. While hemp is an exciting crop to grow, mono-crop and chemically treated farms are rarely what the environment needs or rewards.

 

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