fields of hemp might become a late-season pollen bonanza for bees. according to a recent study, cannabis hemp also attracts a variety of bees!
for the study, published this month in the journal biomass and bioenergy, researchers at colorado state university set up 10 traps at industrial hemp fields in northern colorado and collected bees over the course of five days during peak flowering season. the team wanted to know whether hemp represented “a potentially valuable source of pollen for foraging bees,” which play a critical role in maintaining “sustainable productivity in natural and agricultural ecosystems.” yet, neither hemp nor the other strains of cannabis offer insects any nectar, and all rely on wind to spread pollen.
when the researchers looked at their collection, they found almost 2,000 bees from 23 different bee genera. most of those were classic honeybees, but there were also specialized genera such as melissodes bimaculata and peponapis pruinosa that turned up in surprisingly “high proportions.” hardly anything is known about the nutritional qualities of hemp pollen for larval bees. yet, commercial hemp plots may end up as rare food sources for pollinators in stressful times.
the study also may guide the standard for hemp pesticides as bees will need to be heavily considered in developing an integrated pest management plan designed to protect pollinators while controlling pests.