An unsuspecting pair, hemp and honey bees, possess a fascinating relationship. For starters, industrial hemp crops are wind-pollinated. They naturally create a lot of pollen. Who’s attracted to pollen? Bee populations, of course!
And although hemp flowers do not produce nectar, bee colonies can use industrial hemp plants year-round for the plant’s pollen production. In addition, hemp tends to flower in late summer, a time when access to other plants may be limited.
This makes the relationship between hemp and bees all the more exciting! By strategically planting hemp crops, we could create a more sustainable, year-round ecosystem for bee populations. Plus, adding hemp crops to agriculture offers a ton of environmental benefits. Industrial hemp plants have the ability to:
- Purify the air, filtering out CO2.
- Regenerate depleted soil.
- Prevent soil erosion.
- Absorb toxic elements from the soil.
- Support rotational crops — a sustainable farming practice.
- Act as a natural pesticide.
- Lower water usage.
There’s a lot to love about the connection between hemp and honey bees. Do bees like hemp? You bet! Do ecosystems and farms benefit directly from hemp crops? Yes again. But what else do you need to know about hemp and bees?
Some Background on Hemp Agriculture
To better understand the hemp and honey bees relationship, we must understand hemp and bees alone. To begin, there are an estimated 25,000 uses for the hemp plant. The most popular uses include:
- CBD Products
- Food & Animal Feed
- Building Materials
However, industrial hemp is not only praised for the products we make from it. Instead, the agriculture industry views hemp as a super crop! As we mentioned above, adding rotational hemp crops to your farm can positively impact your other plants. Hemp crops keep the bugs away, purify the soil, and much more!
Wind-pollinated hemp flowers bloom primarily in late summer but can be strategically planted to bloom year-round. This creates a steady supply of pollen for bees. Why does this matter? Because bees are in danger, and hemp can help.
Why Honey Bees Need Hemp Crops
According to Greenpeace, a global, independent environmental protection organization:
“Scientists know that bees are dying from a variety of factors–pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutrition deficit, air pollution, global warming, and more. Many of these causes are interrelated. The bottom line is that we know humans are largely responsible for the two most prominent causes: pesticides and habitat loss.”
Bee colonies can use industrial hemp to combat some of these factors. How?
Eliminating the Need for Pesticides
Hemp is a natural insect repellent. In fact, all plants containing cannabinoids – the primary active compounds found in cannabis – are known to deflect insects. Scientists aren’t quite sure why. However, by eliminating the need for harmful pesticides, farmers can switch to hemp plants as an alternative to chemical pesticides. This creates a natural pesticide, which reduces the pesticide pollution threatening bee populations.
Creating Drought-Resistant Ecosystems
Industrial hemp requires two to three gallons of water per day at the beginning of its life cycle. But after two to three weeks, it becomes one of the most water-saving, drought-tolerant plants on the planet. Hemp possesses the amazing ability to store lots of water in its roots and stems. This, in turn, hydrates the soil, creating wetter conditions for surrounding crops. When looking at how to save the bees, drought-resistant agriculture is a must!
Providing Habitats for Bees & Insects
It might seem simple, but when examining the relationship between hemp and honey bees, don’t overlook the obvious! Hemp plants can grow up to 16 feet tall at peak maturity. Furthermore, hemp plants are strong, durable, and sturdy, making for perfect insect (bee) habitats. Planting a variety of habitat-friendly plants is just one of the necessary steps in saving the bees.
Adding Necessary Nutrients to Soil
Hemp flowers and their pollen production offer a variety of nutrients to bee colonies. As we mentioned earlier, hemp plants also add a ton of nutrients to the soil. This helps to fight back against nutrient deficits which harm bee populations. What nutrients are we talking about?
- Healthy Bacteria
Soil bacteria have the ability to create natural antibiotics, allowing plants to resist disease. It’s almost as if hemp crops can take of themselves, improving soil along the way. When examining hemp and bees together, healthy soil means more plants. More plants mean more bees.
We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again and again: SAVE THE BEES!
Additional Questions About Hemp and Honey Bees
We know a lot about hemp pollen production and how it pertains to bee colonies. We also know that both hemp and honey bees are necessary for environmental health. How do bees directly benefit the environment?
Bees play a crucial role in the life cycle of agricultural plants. They pollinate about 80% of all plants on earth. Furthermore, some estimates claim that bees are directly responsible for about three-fourths of the food we eat. Saying that bees are essential for our own survival is an understatement.
What are some additional unanswered questions about hemp and bees?
Can Bees Make Honey Directly from Hemp?
No. Hemp crops offer high pollen production, essential to the life cycle of plants. However, bees create honey from nectar, not pollen. “Nectar” is the sugary liquid produced by flowers. Hemp flowers do not produce nectar. As such, there is no such thing as hemp honey.
You might’ve seen “hemp honey” on the CBD marketplace before. We assure you: this is made from regular honey infused with CBD oil or another form of hemp extract.
BEES CANNOT MAKE HEMP HONEY.
Does Hemp Honey Get You High?
This is a common question. However, let us reiterate: “hemp honey” is merely CBD-infused honey, NOT honey made from hemp. American-made CBD products can contain at most 0.3% THC by dry weight. This is nowhere near enough THC to bring about intoxicating side effects.
What Do Bees Do With Hemp Pollen?
Bees have many uses for hemp pollen. Consider this scenario:
- A bee lands on a hemp plant, budding with hemp flowers.
- The hemp pollen accumulates on the bee’s legs, a phenomenon known as “pollen pellets.”
- Moving from one hemp plant to the next, the bee fertilizes the plants. Fertilization is a crucial step in the agricultural life cycle.
- As the bee ventures home, it will land on other plants, not just hemp crops. As such, the bee cross-pollinates these additional plants using hemp pollen. Remember: bees are responsible for pollinating about 80% of all plants on earth. That requires a lot of pollen.
- Back at the hive, the remaining pollen acts as a food source for the entire bee colony. Pollen is considered a bee-friendly, protein-rich food.
Hemp and Honey Bees: A Step in the Right Direction
Hemp alone will not save the bees. Rethinking our approach to environmental health, sustainability, and ecosystems will. However, hemp crops offer a variety of benefits that begin to shape our understanding of bee populations. The more hemp we plant, the more benefits for the bees and other vital wildlife species!
- The Honey Bee Conservatory
- Bee Informed
- Planet Bee
- Pollinator Partnership
- Friends of the Bees (UK)
- Bees for Development (UK)
One more time: SAVE THE BEES!