Vegan edibles featuring CBD or cannabis are helping to save starving bees, according to research out of Colorado, the nation’s leader in hemp production. The data indicate that hemp fields may be vital to bee health during times of pollen scarcity.
According to Science News, industrial hemp plants are increasingly accessible to bees as states develop programs for legalized growing.
Though the plants are dioecious and rely on wind – not insects – for pollination, many varieties of bees have shown interest in hemp plants, and it is now thought that hemp fields may become a late-season pollen savior for hungry bees.
During a month-long survey intended to explore bee diversity in industrial hemp farms, bees in 23 out of the 66 genera found in Colorado were seen in the researchers’ traps.
The study was conducted by an entomology student at Colorado State University, Colton O’Brien, and his adviser Arathi Seshadri. Reporting the findings at the 2018 ESA, ESC and ESBC Joint Annual Meeting for U.S. and Canadian entomological societies, O’Brien said, “You walk through fields and you hear buzzing everywhere.”
O’Brien notes that there were a limited number of flowers blooming during August 2016 when the survey was conducted, meaning bees were struggling to locate pollen. He explains that in late summer, “many crops have completed bloom leading to a dearth of nutritional resources for pollinators.”
During the survey, several species – including the bumblebee and sweat bee – were attracted to the pollen shed by the staminate hemp plants. While little is known about the nutritional value of hemp pollen for larval bees, O’Brien speculates that hemp farms may become the go-to food supply when little else is on offer. He says, “hemp becomes a valuable pollen source for foraging bees, giving it the potential to have a strong ecological value.”
The researcher is concerned about the pest prevention strategies being explored by crop scientists – particularly as researches cannot decide which insects should be classified as pests.
O’Brien acknowledges, “With the proposed Hemp Farming Act of 2018, farmer interest in hemp cultivation is expected to grow. While the diversity of bees on flowering hemp indicates its ecological value, expanding hemp cultivation is likely to draw pests to the crop requiring pest control measures.” However, he adds, “Our documentation of bee diversity in hemp… supports the need for the development of integrated pest management practices that protect pollinators and maintain ecosystem functions.”
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