As the world population of honeybees continues to decline at a dangerous rate, a new study from Colorado State University purports to have found the answer to quell the decline—hemp. The reason hemp is such a boon to the bee population is simple, it is a great source of pollen.
Because the hemp plant provides such a massive amount of pollen, it will provide them with the resources they need to sustain and grow their populations.
As Forbes points out:
- According to researchers, most hemp crops flower between July and September, coinciding with a lack of pollen production from other farm crops.
- Over 2,000 bees (and 23 different types of bee, including the European honeybee) were collected during the study. The 23 bee types represent 80% of all types in the region.
- This discovery points to hemp as a new pollen source for bees and could help sustain their populations.
- Bee colonies have been declining in the U.S. due to stressors such as pests, pesticide exposure and poor nutrition from a lack of pollen, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Researchers noted that although “hemp does not produce any nectar, the pollen rich nature of the flowers can make hemp an ecologically valuable crop.” However, they also noted that as “cultivation of hemp continues to expand, we expect insect pests on hemp to also become prevalent. Our results documenting bee diversity in flowering hemp provides the impetus for the development of integrated pest management plans that protect pollinators while controlling pests.”
As TFTP reported last year, another study showed that mushrooms could have a powerful effect on bees by helping them combat the viruses that have been killing their colonies.
According to the results of this study, which was titled “Extracts of Polypore Mushroom Mycelia Reduces Viruses in Honey Bees,” researchers were looking for a way to combat the highly infectious viruses that were wiping out global honey bee populations, and they started looking at mushrooms when they noticed bees were seeking out the fungus:
“Bees have been observed foraging on mushroom mycelium, suggesting that they may be deriving medicinal or nutritional value from fungi. Fungi are known to produce a wide array of chemicals with antimicrobial activity, including compounds active against bacteria, other fungi, or viruses. We tested extracts from the mycelium of multiple polypore fungal species known to have antiviral properties.”
The study found that extracts from amadou and reishi fungi reduced the levels of honey bee Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and Lake Sinai Virus (LSV) with colonies that were fed Ganoderma resinaceum extract showing “a 79-fold reduction in DWV and a 45,000-fold reduction in LSV compared to control colonies,” which brought researchers to the conclusion that “honey bees may gain health benefits from fungi and their antimicrobial compounds.”
Paul Stamets, lead author of the study and founder of Fungi Perfecti, a business focused on promoting the cultivation of mushrooms, told ABC News that he worked with researchers from Washington State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the study.
“This is a natural product and [it’s showing] tremendous results in reducing the viruses of bees,” Stamets said, noting that the mushrooms are “the first antivirals to reduce viruses in bees.”
Published by Nature Scientific Reports, the results of the study noted that over the last decade, while the demand for honey bees has increased, the annual colony losses have continued to increase, usually by more than 30 percent each year.
Researchers began paying attention to the natural habits of the bees, which led them to study why the bees were foraging directly on mushrooms. According to the study:
“Honey bees have been observed foraging directly on mycelium growing in outdoor beds, leading to speculation that they may be procuring a nutritional or medicinal gain. This behavior may represent a novel facet of social immunity, given that a growing body of evidence indicates that honey bees self-medicate using plant-derived substances. In this study, we evaluated extracts derived from the mycelia of several polypore mushroom species for activity against two major honey bee viruses in vivo in both laboratory and field studies. In both cases, reductions in DWV and LSV titers occurred in bees that were fed mycelial extracts in sucrose syrup.”
Stamets also told ABC News that he was initially invited to submit his mushroom extract samples to the Department of Defense’s “Project BioShield” following the 9/11 attacks when the government warned of a possible “biological attack” and the extracts he provided were found to be “extraordinarily active.”
The power of mushrooms is now having the same effect on fragile honey bees, and the study found that the extracts could almost double the lifespan of caged bees while simultaneously working to reduces their viral count.
One of the most incredible things about this study is that the researchers took the time to pay attention to the elements in nature that honey bees were attracted to, and they found that the bees were instinctively foraging for a substance that helped to protect them.
The study is also yet another “win” for magic mushrooms, and as The Free Thought Project has reported over the years, there is no shortage of wonders that come from mushrooms, which include treatment for depression, opioid addiction, PTSD, and mental illness—just to name a few.