Environmental Laboratory

  • Which Plants Are Best for Bees?

Which Plants Are Best for Bees?

Jan 16 2019 Read 761 Times

Bees rely on pollen from plants and flowers to feed their young. While those species which produce nectar are most desirable to bees, the most important thing for their survival is access to a steady supply of pollen throughout the year. As a result, bees may turn to unlikely alternatives to sustain themselves and their hive when pollen is scarce.

One such plant which has proven itself popular with bees in Colorado, America is hemp. Most famous for being a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant which is now cultivated for the production of marijuana in the States, hemp has not traditionally been associated with bees, but a recent study found that it may provide an important food source for the struggling species in times of need.

Beleaguered bees

Bee populations all over the globe have been struggling in recent years due to a variety of different factors. An increase in industrial agriculture has led to a loss of habitat, while the widespread use of neonicotinoids as pesticides has had a significant impact on their numbers. Fortunately the UK government moved to ban such chemicals earlier this year.

Meanwhile, climate change has caused instability in seasonal rhythms, affecting how flowers bloom and directly impacting the primary food source for bees. This means that in spring and autumn, bees can suffer from a shortage of sustenance and may look to unlikely sources to supplement their nutritional intake.

Hemp to the rescue

Hemp does not produce nectar, and therefore normally relies on wind alone to serve its pollination needs. However, Colorado State University etymology student Colton O’Brien noticed an interesting phenomenon last year when monitoring hemp crops as part of his studies. Since many of the bees’ preferred crops had already finished their flowering cycle, the later-blooming hemp provided a valuable source of nutrition during autumn months.

In total, O’Brien observed 23 species of bee visiting the hemp fields, 80% of which belonged to four groups. O’Brien believes that this unanticipated environmental benefit should be emphasised when planting hemp crops in the future.

Pest control

In particular, O’Brien highlighted the challenges facing pesticide analysis and monitoring. Given that hemp growing on a commercial scale is still a relatively new endeavour, having only becoming legal with the passing of the 2014 US Farm Bill and set to increase under the 2018 Hemp Farming Act, much remains unknown about pesticides with regards to hemp produce.

Exactly which insects will pose the greatest threat to the longevity of the crops is still a mystery, as well as which pesticides should be used to best deter them. O’Brien is hopeful that farmers will be mindful of bees when spraying pesticides in the future, as they may well come to increasingly rely on the food source as climate change progresses.  

Read comments0

Do you like or dislike what you have read? Why not post a comment to tell others / the manufacturer and our Editor what you think. To leave comments please complete the form below. Providing the content is approved, your comment will be on screen in less than 24 hours. Leaving comments on product information and articles can assist with future editorial and article content. Post questions, thoughts or simply whether you like the content.


Digital Edition

International Environmental Technology February 2019

February 2019

In This Edition Business News - Changes on the Endress + Hauser Executive Board - Nivus in full flow - Yokogawa announce appointment of President and Chairman Gas Detection - ATEX app...

View all digital editions

Events

ChemTech World Expo 2019

Feb 20 2019 Mumbai, India

WaterEx World Expo 2019

Feb 20 2019 Mumbai, India

Water Expo 2019

Feb 21 2019 Chennai, India

EUEC 2019

Feb 25 2019 San Diego, CA, USA

Safety at Work. Labour Protection Workwear

Feb 26 2019 Minsk, Belarus

View all events