Hemp and Bees: Field Hemp as a Pollen Source for Bees in the NYS Landscape

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Authors:

Cornell Entomology Poveda Lab; Nate Flicker (nrf42@cornell.edu) and Heather Grab (hlc66@cornell.edu)


Bumblebee on male hemp flower.

Background Information

  • Pollen is an important food source for bees and acts as their primary source of protein and fat.
  • Hemp is wind-pollinated.
  • Hemp does not produce floral nectar.
  • Honeybees, bumblebees, and other native bees visit male hemp flowers for their pollen but do not visit female plants (they do not offer any nectar).

Hemp flowers late in the summer, when other floral resources may be limited in central NYS. This means hemp could be an important source of pollen for bees during late summer.

A large field of hemp being grown for grain and fiber.

Research Question

Does field hemp for grain and fiber provide a provisioning pollen source for bees when fewer agricultural crops are flowering in the NYS landscape?

Project Objectives

  • Identify how the expansion of industrial hemp in NYS is affecting regional bee communities.
  • Recognize how bee communities on different hemp farms are influenced by variable regional landscapes and crop networks.

Methods

A honeybee visiting hemp flowers.

We used sweep-nets and collected flower-visiting bees on 10 farms around Tompkins, Ontario, and Seneca Counties. We analyzed and identified bee communities on each farm within crop networks of site-specific landscapes.

Bees Recorded Visiting Hemp Flowers

  • Bombus impatiens (Common Bumblebee)
  • Apis mellifera (Common Honeybee),
  • Lasioglossum spp.
  • Ceratina spp.
  • Helictus spp.
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