The bee population has been dwindling for decades across the globe, but explosive growth in cannabis cultivation may provide an unexpected solution. A recent study suggests some forms of cannabis could provide vital nutrients to stave off the extinction of several species of bees.
First, let’s take a look at the reason for the dramatic decline and why the survival of our pollinating friends is critical to life as we know it.
Why We Need Bees
According to the US Department of Agriculture, honeybees pollinate an estimated 80% of crops across the nation. To put that into perspective, that’s over 20 billion dollars worth of crops every year. Without bees, we would see a massive change in the diversity and quantity of available foods in US markets.
The number of bee colonies per hectare has declined by 90 percent since 1962, and bee populations continue to drop every year. This is mainly due to parasites, pathogens, and the widespread use of pesticides in industrial agriculture.
One study found “unprecedented levels of agricultural pesticides” in honey bee colonies. And while pesticides aren’t the only culprit, our current approach to pest management certainly isn’t doing bees any favors.
Where Does Hemp Come In?
Hemp has experienced an impressive resurgence in the United States. And as hemp-derived products enter the market and thousands of acres of farmland are converted to cannabis grow operations, we’ve seen fascinating changes—both economically and ecologically.
Is cannabis the sole answer to saving bees from extinction? Maybe not. But it could have a lasting impact.
As a wind-pollinated crop, hemp doesn’t attract bees in the same way a flower might, However, it can be a valuable source of pollen. More specifically, male industrial hemp strains.
To quote a recent Oxford study, “...hemp has the potential to provide a critical nutritional resource to a diverse community of bees during a period of floral scarcity and thereby may help to sustain agroecosystem-wide pollination services for other crops in the landscape.”
Industrial hemp cultivation generally requires the use of fewer pesticides and may offer a safe source of pollen to keep bee colonies going a little longer before winter hits. How cool is that?
4 Ways You Can Help Your Local Bees
There are several ways you can support your local bee population. Here are a few ways you can help save the bees at home.
1. Support Your Local Beekeepers
Consider buying honey from your local beekeepers at farmers markets or local grocery stores. You’ll support sustainable beekeeping practices and ensure your local beekeeper can continue proper care for their bees.
2. Spread Awareness
Most people group bees, wasps, and hornets into a buzzing group of stinging nuisances. But you can help spread awareness. Bees do important work in our environment, so the next time someone you know complains about bees, consider taking a moment to drop some knowledge (or, ya know, kindly educate).
3. Avoid Using Pesticides
Use natural treatments and cut out harsh chemical pesticides in your home garden. Be cautious when buying organic pesticides as some can still be lethal to bee populations. It may take a bit more care, but you might save hundreds of tiny lives.
4. Start Your Own Hive
If you’re feeling brave, you can even don a beekeeping suit of your own! Caring for a colony of bees can be a lot of work, but it’s equally rewarding. Who knows, you might even make a side business out of it (plus you’ll always have a supply of fresh honey). Helpful beekeeping guides and communities can be found with a quick internet search.
Fun fact: Talyn Stratton, Hemplucid VP is a novice beekeeper and recently bottled her first harvest of honey!
Give Nature a Chance
Our high-speed lives are ripe with convenience and it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the issues plaguing modern society. Support your local farming communities and buy natural foods wherever possible. Whether you’re living in a concrete jungle or roughing it in rural America, you can make a difference. If we take care of nature, nature is sure to take care of us.