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Happenings in the insect world
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by Garrett Brinton
on December 20, 2015 at 2:16 PM
Cannabis (marijuana) has separate make and female plants, and is wind pollinated, not insect pollinated. Not that bees might not visit cannabis plants occasionally, but the way it's actually grown for both medical recreational use gives bees little incentive to do so. Seedy pot is less potent and far less desirable as either medicine or a recreational substance, so growers tend to grow from female clones (cuttings), or if growing from seed they destroy all the male plants before they reach maturity and can produce any significant amount of pollen (except when growing specifically for the seeds, and even then the growers isolate the males indoors under lights, or in a tightly closed greenhouse, because they don't want their valuable female plants with their seedless buds to get accidentally pollinated and go to seed, greatly reducing the value of the crop).  
 
Don't get me wrong -- pesticides used on cannabis is certainly an issue worth exploring, especially as medical and recreational legalization continues to spread across the country, and the size of pot growing operations increases. So I don't blame Mussen for wanting to draw attention to the issue. But it's really unfortunate that he apparently didn't consult with anyone with even some basic knowledge of how cannabis is actually grown.  
 
For the reasons stated above, the chances of cannabis pollen becoming any kind of significant source of nutrition for any hive of honey bees seems extremely low, if not practically nonexistent. As far as the reference to the risk of them collecting nectar from cannabis plants, I'm not sure that female cannabis plants even produce any nectar at all (and I was under the impression that they didn't). After all, they're not trying to attract pollinators, since, again, it's a wind-pollinated plant.  
 
As a beekeeper who formerly managed around 40-50 hives in Humboldt County CA (perhaps the most famous pot-growing region of the country) and who taught beekeeping at Humboldt State University for a number of years, I have often joked that I might be the only beekeeping instructor in the country for which one of the most frequently asked questions on day one was "do I have to worry about my honey bees ruining my neighbors' pot crops by pollinating them and making them go to seed?" The answer, of course, is no. Not an insect pollinated plant.  
 
I will just end with one intriguing thought. The one resource a mature female cannabis plant may offer to bees is the resin itself (which is what contains most of the cannabinoids). I did have a fair number of anecdotal reports of bees collecting some of this resin in September and October to incorporate in their propolis as they seal up the hive for winter (no reports of hives appearing to have suffered any as a result, but again, this is all anecdotal). If so, it could be very interesting to test the propolis in hives situated in big pot-growing areas to see whether this propolis contains significant amounts of cannabinoids. Who knows, pot propolis could turn out to be a novel and potentially valuable form of medicinal cannabis, especially considering that propolis itself has useful medicinal properties. Conversely, if bees are in any danger from either some compound created by the cannabis plants themselves, or any pesticides that might be used on them, it seems to me that the bees' collection of propolis (assuming the anecdotal reports are accurate and they do collect cannabis resin for that purpose) would be the most likely route for them to be exposed.
by Kathy Keatley Garvey
on December 22, 2015 at 4:02 PM
Thanks for contributing!
by shila jannat
on December 9, 2016 at 4:16 AM
This is a very nice post and I have more benefited from this informative article. Thanks.
by jack
on August 4, 2017 at 7:54 AM
Thanks for sharing this useful post, as this let me know more about honey, as i usually only take manuka honey. After reading this, I will consider to change
by Emy Hazel
on September 21, 2017 at 10:03 AM
Since 1988 my father and I have rearing honey bee for honey. We start with 20 boxes in front a mustard garden with a area of one-acre. We got very very good quality honey and those people who collected honey from us told that "The honey strongly worked for cold fever."  
 
Keep up the awesome work!
 
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