It seems hemp isn’t just here to help out us humans
Colton O’Brien, an entomology student at Colorado State University in America, decided to conduct a research project after being baffled by the overwhelming sound of swarms of bees he encountered in some hemp fields north of the state.
In a paper titled ‘What’s With All the Buzzing?’ he reported that an astonishing 23 of the total 66 different bee species living in Colorado were found to be present in these fields within the period of his one month study in August.
This particular time of year is late summer in the Northern hemisphere, a dry season when most of the crops that bees visit to forage for pollen have already finished blooming. This results in some very stressed out bees, still in dire need of some nourishment to be able to feed their young.
Enter the hemp flower. More specifically, the male hemp flower, whose blooming coincides with this period of pollen scarcity. While the female hemp flower is used to make CBD, the male hemp flower produces the fibres and seeds used to make paper, food, textiles, animal feed, biofuel and other industrial hemp products.
This was the kind of hemp being grown in those buzzing fields up in Colorado, a crop that is now proliferating across America thanks to the passing of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. Since 1937 the country had effectively been in an era of ‘hemp prohibition’, with hemp not officially recognised as a variety of the cannabis plant, distinct from marijuana. But now that’s changed.
Close to a third of global food production depends on bee pollination
With increasingly more industrial hemp being grown comes more male hemp flowers, and with them an abundance of pollen to feed bee larvae and boost the bee population. It’s no secret that bee numbers have been dwindling all over the world since the late 1990s - not great considering that close to a third of global food production depends on bee pollination. Multiple environmental and ecological factors, including parasites, pesticides and a lack of biodiversity, are to blame for their rapid decline.
But as it turns out, not only does the friendly hemp flower provide pollen to sustain bees, it protects them from these threats too. Since the passing of the act, hemp has fast become a high value crop that farmers are including in their rotations, leading to diverse cropping systems that are much healthier and have fewer pests, weeds and pathogens to exterminate.
This incredible ripple effect is testament to the exciting ways in which the growth of the hemp industry is having a positive effect on people and planet, leading the charge towards a healthier and more sustainable way of existing in the world.