Is Weed Good for Bees?

Liz Filmer
27 Feb 2023

Just like cannabis has been shown to treat human health potentially, insects may benefit from cannabis as well.

Honeybee health is critical to farmers who rely on them to pollinate over 100 crops, providing roughly $6.4 billion in annual financial value. But honeybee populations are shrinking against a background of catastrophic insect decline, prompted by the overuse of pesticides and rampant urbanization.

To enhance honeybee health, investigators at the University of Life Sciences in Lublin, Poland, have test fed their bugs various substances, including caffeine, black pepper and turmeric. But, unfortunately, despite some favourable results, none of these essences has been the solution.
So researchers have now looked to hemp extracts. Hemp is low in THC  but high in CBD, which is alleged to have medical benefits.

Previous research by the same group has shown that hemp extracts expanded the lifespan of honeybees and helped them with the battle against environmental pollution and the upsurge of oxidative stress."

There were three groups of bees in this experiment. One group was fed CBD in sugary syrup; another was given CBD via a cotton strip placed in the hive; the rest were given only sugar and glycerin. The bees fed CBD lived longer and had higher concentrations of biomarkers that indicate good health, including albumin, a protein that works against inflammation. 

The higher concentration of total protein in the groups fed with CBD suggests a higher production of immune proteins, leading researchers to conclude that "CBD extract may prove to be a good supplement and positively affect the immune system of honeybees."

Even though hemp does not produce nectar, bees love it because it pumps out a lot of pollen. In 2018, researchers from Cornell University visited 11 hemp farms and recorded that hemp flowers sustained 16 different bee species. Their research concluded that hemp could deliver vital nutritional help to an eclectic community of bees during a spell of floral absence.

Likewise, a 2019 study in Colorado observed 23 distinct types of bees overrunning hemp flowers. In other words, it's safe to say that bees love weed, and it may even be good for them.

Utilizing CBD to avert colony collapse in honeybees is a novel approach for agriculture and certainly deserves to be explored more thoroughly. It should not, however, divert from the reality that our natural environment is being busily destroyed. We need to formulate strategies for improving the health of all our beneficial insects, not just bees.

Liz Filmer