A new study from the Colorado State University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences suggests that hemp can help maintain bee diversity and prevent bee die-off.
Researchers set up ten traps in Colorado hemp fields and collected almost 2,000 bees from over 20 different genera of bees on flowering hemp, demonstrating that hemp supports pollinators in the agroecosystem. 38 percent of the bees were classic honeybees, but other specialized genera including Melissodes bimaculata and Peponapis pruinosa that turned up in surprisingly “high proportions.”
“Industrial hemp can play an important role in providing sustained nutritional options for bees during the cropping season,” the authors wrote, noting that hemp is wind-pollinated, dioecious and staminate—all of which is attractive to bees.
Male hemp flowers don’t produce nectar, but bees are attracted to the pollen, which can last longer throughout the season than other plants. Previous research from Colorado State University has already studied the bee-saving properties of the hemp plant. Hemp that produces CBD oil, which accounts for 90 percent of hemp production in the U.S., comes from the female plant.
“This copious pollen production in hemp is likely to have an ecological value to beneficial insects in the ecosystem (as a pollen source),” the authors wrote. However, “being a crop that has only recently gained popularity, the ecological value has not been explicitly investigated.”
The study could be useful in helping ecologists save declining bee populations. Over the past year, beekeepers have reported a 40 percent loss of colonies to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The study warns that due to the increase in hemp cultivation across the country, there will be an increased risk of pests on the hemp plants. The authors suggest using the study to find a pest management plan that would minimize the risk of harming the bees.