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How Industrial Hemp Production May Help Revive Bee Populations

Leslie kahn


Homo sapiens is not the only species that loves cannabis. Bees love hemp, too, and it might just save the bee population from extinction. Their numbers have been decreasing at an alarming rate over the last  decade. In this article I will cite a Cornell University study which demonstrates the attraction of bees to hemp plants and its implications. I will also introduce you to an Israeli technology company that uses bees to produce cannabis-derived honey. 

Bees are strongly attracted to hemp plants. The larger the area containing hemp plants, the greater the number of bees it attracts. Bees also prefer the tallest varieties of plants over shorter plants; 17 times as many bees visit the tallest plants. They communicate with the other bees in the hives to let them know where the best hemp pollen is located. 

Insects are typically attracted by the nectar and the bright colors of flower varieties. The surprising thing about hemp is that it neither produces nectar nor has brightly colored flowers. Researchers have discovered that 16 bee subspecies are attracted by the pollen produced by the male flowers while they show no interest in the female flowers. It is unclear why the pollen of the male flowers is so desirable.

All of this bee activity is due to the recent large expansion of industrial hemp production in the US as a result of the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. Because hemp flowers late in the season, this may strengthen bee populations by providing pollen when there is typically a paucity of it.

Bees As Pollinators

Here is a refresher on why bees play such a crucial role in crop production. Bees are the most important pollinators for plant reproduction; they take a flower’s male sex cells and combine them with the female flowers. It would be extremely difficult to duplicate the job that bees perform in the germination of fruits and vegetables. In the US alone, the role of bees accounts for about $20 billion worth of crop production. 

Almonds are entirely dependent on bees for pollination, while blueberries and watermelon heavily rely on the presence of bees. You may have noticed an increase in the cost of these crops during the winter of 2018, due to an alarming decrease in bee populations of previous years because of pesticide poisoning and infestations by mites.

The Study Everyone Is Talking About At Cornell University, NY

The 2018 study, The Bee Community of Cannabis sativa and Corresponding Effects of Landscape Composition, conducted at Cornell University, published in Environmental Entomology on December 2, 2019 , made the case that bees are strongly attracted to hemp plants. The team of Nathaniel Ryan Flicker, Katja Poveda and Heather Grab collected data on the visitation of bees to hemp flowers on farms in New York which varied by different landscapes and hemp varieties.

Study Highlights

  • During the summer of 2018, bees were collected at 11 hemp farms in central New York
  • Hemp plants that measure at least 2 meters (6.6’) tall attract 17 times as many bee visitations when compared to shorter plants
  • The number and species of bees increased proportionately with plant height; 16 unique bee genera visited hemp plants
  • 355 bees were collected in total of which 30% were Bombus impatiens, the common Eastern bumble bees, and 60% were western honey bees

In an article published for the University of Nebraska Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, researchers now believe that the varieties of hemp that grow to a height of 6-7’ may be best at attracting bee populations.  

With more and more states switching over to industrial hemp, the researchers of this study strongly advised that growers, managers and policy makers take into account its value in increasing bee populations. They also urge hemp producers to develop a pest management protocol as an increase in pests infecting the crop is inevitable. 

CannaBeeZ

And now for something completely different…
CannaBeeZ honey is a non-infused, highly bioavailable, cannabis-derived honey without the psychoactive effects. It contains up to 10,000 times lower measurable concentration of cannabinoids, produced entirely by bees.

It was invented by Israeli Ilan Ben Simon. He educated himself about the healing properties of medical cannabis after experiencing its analgesic properties for his incapacitating arthritis. He also used information already gathered by Israeli Professor Dedi Meiri, head of the Cancer and Cannabinoid Research Lab at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, to create CannaBeeZ. He collaborated with Avner Ben Aharon to start PhytoPharma International in 2015. 

Ben Aharon explains why the honey works so well within a 2-fold mechanism;
1. The bee honey crosses the blood-brain barrier in a highly efficient manner.
2. Using bees’ intestines as the extraction process generates a cannabinoid-rich product which is extremely effective.

Because bees do not have an endocannabinoid system, they are not affected by the psychoactive properties of the cannabinoids they are fed.

The honey is unique in that it is a reddish color. It is taken orally and comes in daily doses of 1-3 grams. A dose of 2 grams of the honey was reported to significantly reduce the pain for fibromyalgia patients. Its effects are felt in 5-10 minutes, unlike cannabis-infused honey which takes 30-90 minutes to kick in.

The CBD honey includes a concentration of 0.5 milligrams per gram
The THC honey includes a concentration of 0.7 milligrams per gram

While the honey is currently the company’s only product, they have plans to extend their product line to include food and beverages, pet and cosmetic products.

Here is a link to an article I wrote about the wonders of the hemp plant with its many practical uses and now we can add saving the bee populations to the list.

Sources:
merryjane.com, Bees Love Weed Almost As Much As We Do, Study Finds
boulderweekly.com, Tall Hemp Attract More Bees, Seymour, Jan. 2, 2020
Topic420.com, Edible Cannabis Honey Triggers A Buzz, Oct. 13, 2019
phytopharmaint.com
forbes.com, Artisanal Edible Cannabis Honey Causes A Buzz, Sara Brittany Somerset, Nov. 19, 2018
cannabistech.com, What Happens When Scientists Feed Cannabinoids to Bees?, Zoe Biehl, Jan. 14, 2020