CBD for Bees?

by | Sep 18, 2020

Detroiter Karhlyle Fletcher is the host of High Lit, a cannabis research and classic literature podcast featuring leading voices and independent music. In addition to years in written and video cannabis journalism, he is also a traditional author.

From the Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej to the valleys of California, bees drive pollination across the world. Of course, that makes them good friends of the cannabis industry, but science may have just proven cannabis can give back profoundly.

Breaking Polish Research Finds Incredible Resilience to Pesticides

Hemp has already proven to be an excellent friend through being a source of nutrients and pollen for bees in a period of floral dearth. Now, this August, Polish research at the Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej revealed hemp oil could save bees. As the USDA reports, pesticides may be a significant contributor to colony collapse disorder. News that bees treated with hemp oil may be able to resist pesticides comes as marvelous news. 

Professor Aneta Ptaszyńska, leader of the study, said, “there are reports that hemp extract protects human nerve cells, [so] we decided to check whether it would be the same in the case of a bee. For now, we know that the extract extends the life of bees that have been exposed to pesticides… The tested insects lived comparatively as long as those that had never had contact with harmful substances.”

The research was done on 5,000 caged bees, and next year the team will study bees living in apiaries. After this research, if the team is successful, they will bring a hemp oil product to market meant to promote bee immunity to pesticides. The researchers have already filed a patent for their hemp oil. 

Prosperous California Fights Back Fires and Declining Bee Populations

From 2018 to 2019, a 40% decrease in the bumblebee population ravaged the state of California. This decline matched the annual rates researchers have seen since 2006. Now, bumblebees are poised to become the first insect on Calfornia’s list of protected species. These essential pollinators drive agricultural industries, and yet overzealous pesticide use, along with habitat destruction, contribute to driving their populations down. 

Faced with hazardous agricultural practices and climate change, bees need serious support if they’re not going to disappear from some regions. Many species may have already gone extinct. In terms of range, 2020 research found the bumblebee’s areas fell 46 percent in North America and 17 percent in Europe. The ongoing crisis in California is sure to continue this disheartening trend. 

However, pesticides may make things even worse for bees choked by smoke and flame. Ptaszyńska explained, “bees are dying because they are malnourished and weakened by the use of pesticides, and then they start to suffer from various diseases. One of them is nosemosis. It attacks the digestive system, causes weakness and cachexia (muscle loss). Bees cannot digest and absorb nutrients, and then they simply die.”

Additionally, neonicotinoids, a popular pesticide ingredient, affect receptors in bees similar to receptors in the human brain which are affected by nicotine. A 2018 study found that bees initially avoided plants treated with neonicotinoids, but eventually developed a preference for the neonicotinoid-treated crops. Another 2018 study found “chronic consumption of clothianidin at field-realistic concentrations increased mortality rates in all test bumblebee populations.” 

While Coordinated Agricultural Project (CPA)-funded studies found sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoids, it is thought they impair the immune system, making bees more likely to fall prey to “three important bee viruses.” While the environmental crises are unique issues, the immunizing hemp oil treatment for bees could save millions of needed pollinators per year. 

Bountiful Buzz Between Bs, Bs & Weeds

Interestingly, Quebec researchers found that neonicotinoids, the same chemicals which are harming bees, may increase the risk for breast cancer. Research on farmer’s wives found “Use of several organophosphate insecticides was associated with elevated breast cancer risk.” There’s more on the subject. However, this is fascinating considering that on September 1st, 2020, it was found, in ScienceDaily’s summary, that “honeybee venom induces cancer cell death in hard to treat triple-negative breast cancer with minimal effect on healthy cells.” 

So not only could shifting away from neonicotinoid use help prevent breast cancer, the most common cancer for women, and help preserve the bee populations but also bees may help treat aggressive breast cancers. Additional research found that “CBDA inhibits migration of the highly invasive MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells, apparently through a mechanism involving inhibition of cAMP-dependent protein kinase A, coupled with an activation of the small GTPase, RhoA.” 

In summary, bees are pollinators, and therefore a crucial part of the outdoor hemp ecosystem. That same hemp can protect bees against pesticides, which are also connected to causing breast cancer. Those bees may also provide venom for a novel treatment for breast cancer, and the hemp may be able to provide cannabinoids for treatment for breast cancer, as well. All in all, it seems like an intricately connected relationship between our crops, nature, what we put in it, and how that ends up affecting our world and bodies. Often, nature has many solutions that require us to think out of the box, like using beneficial insects for pest management. Take care of the earth, take care of people, and balance will likely come into being.