A researcher investigating industrial hemp fields in Colorado has discovered that the plant is extremely popular with many different bee species, according to Science News.
Though hemp flowers don’t produce nectar, they do produce large quantities of pollen which bees use for food. Bees are also known to use pollen to feed their larval young. More importantly, hemp plants flower later than many other plants, providing a valuable late-season food source for bee populations that have struggled in recent years.
Colton O’Brien was the etymology student who conducted the survey, which revealed that bees from 23 out of the 66 genera known to inhabit Colorado were found in the two hemp fields. “You walk through fields and you hear buzzing everywhere,” said O’Brien, who spent an entire month surveying two different hemp plots in Colorado.
The 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to develop industrial hemp pilot programs, but the addition of industrial hemp’s legalization to the pending 2018 Farm Bill makes it clear that hemp farming is on the rise. For bees, the only real danger will be what happens as hemp scales up to be a major industrial crop — agricultural pests drive many large farming operations to use pesticides, which is a major contributor to the current decline in bee populations.
Further study is needed to determine exactly how nourishing hemp pollen is for the bees but, as a late-season food source for already-stressed bees, any help is valuable.
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