Hemp might prove more useful to bees than humans, and that’s saying a lot.
Researchers at Cornell University have discovered that the pollination powerhouses are attracted to hemp and the taller the plant, the bigger the party.
Cannabis and hemp are two forms of the same plant. They may look alike, but their effects are quite different.
“The deciding factor lies in the concentration of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the impairing compound found in the cannabis plant. The concentration of THC in hemp plants is usually so low (0.3 per cent or less) that it’s considered non-impairing. Cannabis, on the other hand, contains THC concentration of more than 0.3 per cent,” notes The GrowthOp.
In a study recently published in Environmental Entomology, researchers looked at 11 hemp farms in the Finger Lakes area of New York and found plant height to be strongly correlated to bee abundance, Marijuana Moment reports.
Plants that were two metres high or taller attracted almost 17 times the number of bees that their shorter neighbours did. In all, 16 different varieties of bees were found to be swarming the crop.
“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,” the researchers wrote. “Plant height… was strongly correlated with bee species richness and abundance for hemp plots with taller varieties attracting a broader diversity of bee species.”
The findings come at a good time for the invaluable flying insects that researchers note have suffered in the face of widespread agricultural development that often replaces an area’s native crops with ones that will make more money. Hemp may not possess the enticing aroma of other bee magnets, but it produces plenty of pollen at a time when it is in short abundance elsewhere. Researchers believe the plant could play a crucial role in keeping colonies alive and, in turn, preserving the parts of the food chain that require their attention.
Bee pollination plays a pivotal part in U.S. agriculture and is responsible for US$20-million of domestic crop production, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization. That value jumps to between $235-billion and $577-billion worldwide.
“As a late-season crop flowering during a period of seasonal floral dearth, hemp may have a particularly strong potential to enhance pollinator populations and subsequent pollination services for crops in the following year by filling gaps in late-season resource scarcity,” researchers said.
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Written by David Yasvinski