Devastating news broke across America in 2006 when beekeepers reported astronomical declines in colonies with up to 90% of bees missing compared to the seasonal average of 15%.
The term Colony Collapse Disorder was created and with it came the grave possibility that bees could go extinct and according to Albert Einstein within 4 years of this occurring, the entire human race would be wiped out.
We rely heavily on bees to pollinate our crops so they grow. In fact some 35% of crops around the world benefit from pollinators like honey bees and without our buzzing little friends, there would be no food, no coffee, no apples, no honey… and no us.
Research strongly suggests pesticides, and to a lesser extent, a lack of pollen, as the primary cause of this radical decline with the former linked with neurological damage inflicted on the bees (similar to Alzheimer’s) resulting in confused bees leaving the hive forever.
A reluctance to ban dangerous yet profitable synthetic pesticides has led researchers at Colorado State University to search for alternative solutions and they believe the hemp plant may just hold the key to a revival of bees and ultimately the survival of our species.
Male hemp plants produce flowers that do not contain nectar but are extremely rich in pollen. They can be grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilisers making them safe for bees health as well as being an invaluable source of nutritious pollen.
Hemp fields produce a rich diversity and abundance of bees with this 2019 study showing a total of 23 different species being attracted to the plant with the European honey bee (the most important bee) accounting for 38% of all bees.
Another great benefit of Hemp for bees is that it begins flowering in the fall when other mass flowering crops have completed blooming, making it an excellent pollen resource for bees and in turn further enhancing their survival chances.
The researchers also noted that access to crucial phytochemicals through pollen from diverse plant sources is critically important for improved survival and pathogen tolerance in honey bees helping they stay healthier and alive for longer.
Plants and bees have a unique symbiotic relationship where they require each other to survive and the Colorado researchers noted that peak bee diversity levels coincided with peak flowering intensity levels of the hemp plant.
Prevention is better than cure and ironically hemp’s medicinal benefits may just be overshadowed by its bee saving abilities which might just save the human race!