Female hemp plant and flower. Photo: University of George Extension.
Male hemp flower. a source of pollen for bees. Photo: University of Georgia Extension.
Hemp pollen. Photo: Arizona State University.
Dr. Mike Strain, Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner. Photo: LDAF.
In December 2019, The USDA approved Louisiana’s plan to produce industrial hemp as an agricultural commodity. Shortly after the approval, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) began accepting license applications to produce, transport, and process industrial hemp.
The LSU AgCenter and the Southern University AgCenter have licenses to produce pharmaceutical grade of cannabidiol or CBD for these medical conditions: cancer, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, cachexia or wasting syndrome, seizure disorders, epilepsy, spasticity, Crohn’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, severe muscle spasms, intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and autism spectrum disorder.
Beekeepers in southwest Louisiana asked AHA to research the possible impacts of hemp production on beekeeping and to share the results of that inquiry.
If a hemp grower wants to produce CBD, then focus on production will then be female hemp plants whose flower is the source of CBD. This flower relies on windborne pollination. The female flower is plain and has no color, aroma, or nectar to attract insect pollinators such as honey bees.
However, if a grower wants to produce fiber, then the male hemp plant is the preferred source for products such as cordage, hempcrete and textiles. The male hemp plant has value to beekeeping because it will produce pollen, a useful source of protein for bee broods.
Colton O’Brien & Arathi H.S. Seshadri, Colorado State University, reported these results when investigating bee activity in industrial hemp:
A study reported in Pubmed.gov, entitled Honeybee Pollen Load: Phenolic Composition and Antimicrobial Activity and Antioxidant Capacity, indicated that “based on the present results, honeybee pollen from the V Region of Chile has been found to exhibit antioxidant and antimicrobial activities.” This report reveals that hemp pollen is beneficial to honey bee health.
At the 2019 annual meeting of the Louisiana Beekeepers association, Dr. Mike Strain specifically said that it is illegal for beekeepers to artificially infuse honey with CBD in Louisiana.
The Aspen Times published the story that Bee Fuse Technology, a California firm, has developed a “patented hemp nectar” on which bees feed to produce a naturally infused hemp honey. This honey may have the beneficial properties of both honey and CBD.
One question that both beekeepers and non-beekeepers ask is, “Do bees get a ‘buzz’?” In other words, do bees experience unusual behavior from exposure to hemp. Sharon Schmidt, beekeeper & psychiatric nurse practitioner, “Bees & Cannabis” writes, “the [THC] receptor appears to be the only known neuroreceptor that is present in mammals and absent in insects.” The short answer is “no” because bees lack the receptors that people have for the psychoactive component of cannabis. It is physiologically impossible for bees to get “high”.
For beekeepers, their bees can benefit from hemp pollen and receive benefits by foraging this plant. For honey consumers, hemp honey is available online under various brand names.
Please send your beekeeping questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337.2845188 or email@example.com . Also, you can be on the “beemail” email list by emailing your request to the address above.
“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”
“Mention of trade names or commercial products and services in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”