Canna-bees: a great story of cooperation

Although Cannabis plants do not produce nectar, other phytochemical substances can attract bees and help with pollinators management and conservation, while improving bees' resistance to insecticides.

In 2019, researchers in Colorado found that hemp production – which has changed the agricultural landscape in Colorado over the last decade – was attracting bees right when they needed.

Hemp flowering in northern Colorado occurs between the end of July and the end of September. This time period coincides with a scarcity of pollinator-friendly crop plants in the region, making hemp flowers a potentially valuable source of pollen for foraging bees.

The researchers found a diversity and abundance of bees, a total of 23 different genera, wandering around the fields of the flowering hemp crop.

What was also interesting about this study is that, while hemp does not produce any nectar, its pollen-rich nature of flowers can make the hemp crop a paradise for bees.  

Later on, Scientists from Lublin's Maria Curie-Skłodowska University discovered that hemp extract can help bees survive poisoning by pesticides. The team are the first in the world to test the longevity of bees who have been exposed to pesticides after receiving hemp extract.

There are reports that hemp extract protects human nerve cells, we decided to check whether it would be the same in the case of a bee.Team leader Professor Aneta Ptaszyńska

Professor Ptaszyńska and her team studied 5,000 bees living in cages to determine whether hemp-derived cannabis extracts could help protect bees from the damaging effects of pesticides.

The researchers discovered that specific cannabis extracts protected the bees from some of the negative effects of neonicotinoids – a class of insecticides chemically related to nicotine that act on certain kinds of nerve receptors and are much more toxic to insects than to vertebrates.

The discovery could be a major breakthrough in bee conservation and not only save bees around the world but also help protect the variety of ecosystems that they contribute to.

The importance of bee preservation cannot be overstated. Pollinators provide an important ecosystem service and protecting and conserving these groups of organisms is necessary for a healthy functioning ecosystem.

Consider different possibilities when developing agroecosystem management strategies to sustain pollinators, is a need. Hemp crop not only helps to "feed" the bees but also provide "medical aid" against poisoning caused by the misuse of modern agriculture.

 Fun facts about Canna-bees:

Hemp can be an ecologically valuable crop whose flowers are attractive to managed honey bees and a wide range of wild bees.

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.

Bees help hemp and hemp helps bees, what a great symbiosis!

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Camila Ferezin
Camila Ferezin

Camila Ferezin is a PhD student in Cell and Molecular Biology. She holds a BA in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biochemistry and has been working with Research and Development, both in the Academic environment and Pharma company. She is passionate about Science and loves to talk about Chemistry, Biology and Physics.