Cannabis & Bees: How Weed Can Save the Bees
Published on 1/24/21
When was the last time you saw a bee buzzing around, causing a nuisance around you? The bee population has been rapidly decreasing for quite some time now because they have been on the verge of possible extinction for the past few years. There have been many contributing factors to cause this, such as climate change and pesticide use. However, the cannabis community has recently noticed there to be a positive relationship between bees and cannabis. Will weed save the bee community? Let's dive further in to see what the buzz is all about.
Why Are Bees So Important?
Bees are an unsung hero on our planet because they do so much more for our food supply than most people know about. Everyone should care about this bee crisis because bees are responsible for pollinating approximately a third of our food supply, and the economic value of U.S. crops that have benefited from honeybee pollination is somewhere around $20 billion. These are statistics that cannot be ignored.
Other pollinators include butterflies, beetles and bats, but the honeybee is special. It can pollinate up to 80% of our flowering crops and visits up to 1000 separate flowers in one trip. By doing this, honeybees pollinate some of our most micro-nutrient-rich foods, like watermelon, apples, broccoli, nuts and asparagus. Not only are honeybees vastly important to our commercial crops, but they are also vital for home gardens and feeding wildlife. Bees even aid in alfalfa production, which is used in feed for the beef and dairy industry. Scientists discovered that 75% of food is dependent on some kind of pollinators, meaning that bees are vital to us humans. With the waning bee population that is happening today, it is an issue that we cannot ignore for much longer.
What is Happening to the Bee Population?
Nearly everyone has noticed the lack of buzz around us. The honeybee extinction rates have grown exponentially over the past few years, possibly due to a few different reasons. One possible factor is the idea of colony collapse disorder (CCD), which is when the vast majority of the adult worker bees disappear, leaving the queen with immature bees. This disorder affects how the bees navigate, where they cannot find their way back to their hives, leaving the rest of the colony in disarray. At one point it was thought that CCD was the cause of a third of bee losses. Other factors that have contributed to the decrease in population include changes in land use and intensive agriculture practices, including the use of harmful pesticides. Climate change is another factor, due to the shift into higher temperatures and droughts.
Can Bees Pollinate Weed?
Is there anything cannabis cannot do? We are constantly learning new facts on what cannabis can aid in, whether it is clearing an anxious mind or healing various ailments. We may want to add the fact that cannabis could help save the bees as well. In the last few years, studies have found bees pollinating cannabis, which is something that confused researchers everywhere because bees and marijuana haven't been seen to interact previously.
It is not intuitive for bees to like cannabis because weed does not have nectar or a plethora of bright colors, both of which are things that attract bees to certain crops. However, bees have been enjoying the sweet pollen that is produced from the cannabis. If you're wondering, "do bees pollinate marijuana and get high?", the answer is that they cannot. Bees do not have any cannabinoid receptors, so they won't be feeling those famous psychoactive effects.
In a study from Cornell University and a similar one from the University of Colorado, they found that bees like cannabis plants - the taller and the more area covered, the better. In fact, the taller cannabis plants created 17 times more pollen for the hungry bees. Hemp farms in Colorado saw a massive spike in bees, which points to hemp being a much-needed pollen source for hungry, stressed-out bees. It may be a last resort for the bees because they sought out hemp farms when other crops had completed their blooming period already. Another reason why hemp could save the world.
Bees are also attracted to the male marijuana plants because the males produce pollen whereas the female flower does not. Studies found that 17 different varieties of cannabis can support the bee population, which may be able to combat the issue entirely.
The cannabis industry is hot and always looking to rope in consumers with the latest and greatest product. Many companies are jumping on the idea of "cannabees," with an Israeli company, PhytoPharma, on the forefront. By giving low amounts of cannabidiols to bees, they began producing honey with CBD-infused benefits.
How Cannabis Farms Can Protect the Bees
As noted earlier, pesticide use is a huge threat to the bee population. Not only is this an issue in commercial farming, but it is also a unique issue in the cannabis industry. Due to the lack of federal legalization of cannabis, there is a major discrepancy between federal and state laws when it comes to pesticide use on cannabis. Due to the Schedule 1 status of the drug, there are no federal guidelines. So cannabis farmers are essentially in limbo with no federal or EPA insights. One study found that the wild bee abundance decreased significantly with increased pesticide use one year after application. As legalization spreads and farming increases, keeping pesticides low will be paramount to keeping the bee population alive.
Do you think cannabis can save the bees? Let us know your thoughts below.