2 min read
Can hemp help the bees?
With all the new found uses for hemp, this one may be the most surprising. Can hemp save the bees isn’t a question you often ask yourself but, According to studies by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) the number of Bees are declining due to pest, pesticides and poor nutrition from lack of pollen. In 1947 America there were around 6 million hives, that number is down to 2.89 million. However hemp is a surprising contender to save the bees.
What can hemp actually do about the bee population?
The growth of flowering hemp plants could help with this decline and are already making a difference according to a recent study from Colorado State University . Even though hemp only contains a little less than 0.2% THC bees cannot access any of it as they do not have an endocannabinoid and therefore no cannabinoid receptors. Interestingly enough, the bees seem to use the hemp plants as a nutritious option during seasons where there is not as much pollen.
Hemp can act as its own pesticide. Reducing the need for the bee harming chemicals such as Pesticides, Insecticides and Herbicides. Which, alongside loss of habitat is a leading cause in the steady decline of the bee population. A beehive will typically lose 5-10% of its colony over winter and then grow back about 20% during spring however, some colonies in America have seen loses up to 50% in the last 10 years. “Every square kilometre in the UK has lost an average of 11 species of bee and hoverfly, between 1980 and 2013, according to the new analysis,” this quote came from Dr Lynn Dicks of the University of East Anglia in 2013.
Researchers from Colorado State University say that “Industrial hemp can play an important role in providing sustained nutritional options for bees during the cropping season.”. Some research has shown that areas with a higher hemp plant population will provide options for nutrition later on in the year.
Hemp plants tend to flower later in the year when other crops have ceased their flowering. This means bees have access to pollen later in the year helping to combat malnutrition.
The hemp itself doesn’t produce Nectar so honey cannot come directly from the plant. Instead the bees use the pollen as a source of nutrition for themselves and their larvae.
Unfortunately this isn’t a perfect fix. Many experts and other researchers have given a warning. with the rise of hemp growth less pesticide will be used. As a result there is a much higher risk that insect pests could infect the crop. Therefore there will need to be a process that incorporates protection for the pollinators like the hemp provides, alongside a method for keeping away potential pests such as Aphids. Insects which lay underneath the leaf of the hemp plant and suck all of the nutrients out of the plant. Although they are small in size they can reproduce rapidly in the thousands and infest entire fields of hemp. This isn’t the only threat, slugs, snails, spider mites and many more insect pests.
Its not all doom and gloom!
Although we haven’t perfected a method to save the bees, all discussion is a step in the right direction. Any conversation is good and its one of the most important issues facing us in 2020. While the claim that “without bees, we would only have 4 years to live” has been debunked. We would lose a lot of our current diet diversity. Almonds, cherries, peaches and plumbs would be the most affected alongside 87 other crops. If we can do something about this as soon as possible we can be in with a real chance of having a thriving bee population. Not only in Europe but in Canada and especially the US where they are being hit the hardest.
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