The dramatic decline of bee populations noted over the last several years happens due to a number of different factors.
Yet, the main reason for the alarming state of the most important pollinator of food crops on the planet is the overall health of its habitat.
Therefore, we need to find ecologically sustainable agriculture practices, and researchers are looking for a suitable pollinating crop to improve their habitats, to save them, as well as the ecosystems they occupy.
A study conducted by researchers at Colorado State University, published in the journal Biomass and Bioenergy, indicates that planting more hemp could contribute to preserving bee populations.
Researchers set up 10 harmless bee traps at large hemp farms in Northern Colorado and for five days during peak growing , they collected more than 2,000 bees ( 23 different types of bee, including the European honeybee ) to evaluate how much the hemp crops attract them.
Their goal was to investigate whether hemp is “a potentially valuable source of pollen for foraging bees,” which play an important role in maintaining “sustainable productivity in natural and agricultural ecosystems.”
Researchers explained that hemp plants could be beneficial to bees, as they produce large amounts of pollen, and are “wind-pollinated, dioecious and staminate.”
According to researchers:
“A total of 23 different genera of bees were collected of which the European honeybee, Apis mellifera at 38% of the total abundance was the most dominant followed by Melissodes bimaculata at 25% and Peponapis pruinosa at 16%. These three genera made up nearly 80% of the total abundance. “
“While hemp does not produce any nectar, the pollen-rich nature of the flowers can make hemp an ecologically valuable crop. In addition, access to crucial phytochemicals through pollen and nectar from diverse plant sources is important for improved survival and pathogen tolerance in honey bees.
Further studies analyzing the nutritive value of hemp pollen, would provide strong evidence in support of the ecological benefits.”
Yet, they explained that as the industry grows, pests on the crops might become a problem, leading to the use of various pesticides, that will, in turn, interfere with their pollinating ability, and potentially harm bees.
Therefore, they suggest their findings could trigger the development of “integrated pest management plans that protect pollinators while controlling pests.”