Just under the radar of public concerns is the fact that bees and pollinator insects are dying off in catastrophic numbers, and if we are unable to reverse this trend, we face a very different kind of future. Bees in particular appear to be acutely affected by neonicotinoid pesticides along with other fungicides and herbicides. They are losing their habitats.
At the same time, another crisis is converging. Fossil fuels. We need a new, natural, sustainable material to use for construction, packaging, fuel, clothing, and so much more. Fossil fuel extraction is a disaster that could be corrected with a massive global investment in hemp. This may well come to pass, as Congress recently legalized hemp farming in the U.S. for the first time since the last legal hemp fields were planted in 1957 in Wisconsin.
An interesting new scientific study connects these two burgeoning crises, showing the bees absolutely love hemp plants. Hemp crops apparently attract an array of different bee species, offering them a plentiful source of pollen for foraging.
“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.
There are few other crops that pollinate in the region during the same timeframe, so the team wanted to know whether the non-psychoactive cannabis cousin of marijuana represented “a potentially valuable source of pollen for foraging bees,” which play a critical role in maintaining “sustainable productivity in natural and agricultural ecosystems.”
When the researchers looked at their collection, they found almost 2,000 bees from 23 different bee genera. Most of those (38 percent) were classic honeybees, but there were also specialized genera such as Melissodes bimaculata and Peponapis pruinosa that turned up in surprisingly “high proportions.”” [Source]
The scientists involved in this study did have one word of concern, noting that as hemp production expands, so will the temptation and practice of using, and overusing, chemical pesticides, which would turn this opportunity into another disaster.