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How cannabis may help to restore the population of bees

There are eight wild bee species in Canada’s species risk registry, three of which have lost over 50 per cent of their total population [*]. 


York University researchers are warning that the American bumblebee may face extinction in Canada, potentially leading to catastrophic impacts throughout the nation [*]. 


Beekeepers in British Columbia saw over half of their hives die last winter [*].


Needless to say, the bee population is facing a global crisis. According to an article in the National Post, “Wild bee species are responsible for every one in three bites of food at the supper table and help maintain natural ecosystems” [*].  Bees are essential for the lifecycle of crops and other plants, and their population decline is dangerous for our ecosystem [*].


Why is the bee population declining?

 

 

Industrial agriculture, climate change, and pathogens all play a role in negatively impacting bees [*]. The Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists determined that the reduction of bees is happening due to “starvation during a long winter, weak queens, viruses, and poisoning from pesticides” [*]. According to a recent Colorado study, researchers stated that most hemp crops flower between July and September, which coincides with a lack of pollen production from other farm crops [*]. Further, many air-pressurized seeders in industrial agriculture raise dust with pesticides into the air, which adversely affects bees. While Health Canada has made steps to reduce the amount of dust produced by these seeding machines, our bees are facing imminent danger. 


Fortunately, there may be a way to positively impact bee life: by growing hemp, also known as cannabis sativa [*].


Industrial hemp, which is a strain of cannabis sativa, is widely used for the production of textiles, paper, biodegradable plastics, biofuel, and even animal feed. These products are created from hemp fiber or hemp seeds [*].


How can cannabis help the bee population?

 

 

A study published in the Biomass and Bioenergy journal determined that planting more hemp may help to restore and maintain bee populations. which have become dangerously low in recent years [*].  It can help the bee population since it plays an integral part in providing nourishment for bees during the cropping season [*]. 


According to Environmental Entomology, hemp is a wind-pollinated crop that lacks nectar but produces abundant pollen [*]. The pollen-rich nature of hemp flowers make it an extremely ecologically valuable crop [*]. When food is scarce for bees, hemp’s unique flowering phenomenon has the potential to provide them nutrients that “may help to sustain agroecosystem-wide pollination services for other crops in the landscape” [*]. The cultivation of  industrial hemp is quickly gaining popularity, and its contribution to pollen production may have positive ecological impacts.


Researchers explain that  “as cultivation of hemp increases, growers, land managers, and policy makers should consider its value in supporting bee communities and take its attractiveness to bees into account when developing pest management strategies” [*].


How can you positively impact the bee population?


  • Plant bee-friendly flowers in your garden or backyard. Since monoculture-based farming is contributing to the declining bee population [*], help increase biodiversity by growing nectar-rich flowers that bees love, such as lilacs, penstemon, lavender, sage, verbena, and wisteria, mint, cosmos, squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, oregano, rosemary, poppies, or honeysuckle.

  • Buy local, organic food. One of the easiest ways to vote for what we wish to see in the world is with our dollar. When you purchase local, organic food that doesn’t use bee-harming pesticides, you help to support the farmers who are helping to save the local bee population. Even better, support your local beekeepers by purchasing their organic products.

  • Purchase hemp products. Support the growth of hemp and its positive impact on bees by purchasing products made with hemp fiber or hemp seeds. A great example of products to look out for that use hemp ingredients are textiles, clothing and skincare.
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