• Darby Hemp

American Hemp Seed: A Saving Grace for Honey Bees

Every time we choose American hemp seed-based products instead of almonds, we’re reducing immense pressure on our honey bee populations and positively impacting one of earth’s most productive breadbaskets. Pretty neat.

Disclaimer: American hemp seed products are still largely unavailable as the domestic industry is in one of its first real growing seasons (2019) with limited acreage and farmers — hats off to Montana! Only a handful of states have new programs up and running for hemp grain cultivars rather than cannabidiol (CBD) or THC production crops. We won’t really begin seeing ‘Grown & processed in the U.S’ hemp seed and fiber products en masse for couple years yet.


Introduction

Okay, unleash the propaganda. Here’s a good slogan for the next decade:

“Go hemp for honey bees!”

Wherever hemp’s cultivated across the land positive impacts reverberate through our people and environment. Specifically in this article we’ll look at females for seed and males for softer stalk and hurd, not cannabinoid production.


Tis an honor, as for close to a century we hempsters lamented,


Legalize the farming of this species in America…’.


Now we’re here.


It’s happened.


Federal U.S. prohibition is ending with every state that submits new plans to the USDA in accordance with the Hemp Farming Act of 2018.


Canadian hemp seed products have been in U.S. food stores for many years.


While researching and assembling this article, we discovered on the local level these three items are increasingly popular and somewhat regularly sold out:

  • Roasted and unsalted whole hemp seed, meaning heart + hull.

  • 32-ounce containers of hemp seed milk — unflavored and vanilla - which is basically creamier or a little thicker than almond or rice milk, with more taste and nutrition; less watery.

  • Hemp seed bread, which is usually just good bread with lots of hemp hearts included.

Soon we’ll see plenty of American hemp seed flour as well. We can’t wait to experience our first loaf of true local hemp bread in a bakery.


A domestic market emerges.


One of our favorite environmental impacts of hemp grain and fiber farming returning to America (there’s so many!) is:

“Domestic hemp seed will displace demand for California almonds — responsible for around 80%’ish of global almond supply — helping transform an industry for the sake of our honey bee population, the people of California, and the endless beings who depend on precious Californian agricultural land.”

Bottom Line: The time’s come for Americans to reunite with hemp seed and eat less commercial almonds. California MUST become a leading producer to realize unfathomable social, economic, and environmental benefits. To all the ubber-democrats, liberal environmental activists and conservatives in Cali we say…hemp’s your most powerful weapon for positive change on this multifaceted front!


Go from being the #1 almond supplier, to being one of the world’s leading producers of hemp seed and fiber cultivars.


Snapshot: Hemp Seed vs. Almonds (Nutritionally)

Did you know hemp seed was never illegal in America?


Only farming it. How sad. The long-suppressed secret of hemp seed kept from the public could be summarized as such:

“From a health food perspective, hemp seed is better in every way to almonds — the safest, most digestible, nutritionally-balanced, and complete source of plant-based protein, amino acids and essential fats found on earth…

We’ll delve into how ideal hemp seed farming is for California’s environment and our honey bees in a sec, but let’s not forget anything you can make with almonds you can make more nutritious with hemp seed — milk, protein powder, butter, flour, seed oil (completely different from flower-based extracts), etc.


The Taste Test

Which tastes better?


That’s a toughie, as both are pleasant in their own ways. Almonds are bigger, bulkier, but not as crunchy. Non-toasted hemp seed can be challenging to eat by the mouthful…but nutritionally worth it. Almonds have a different texture; their thin layer of outer skin is far different from hemp’s crunchy hulls.


Few people have anything against almonds.


The issue is massive-scale almond farming and the industry impacts can be completely offset via hemp seed farming and everyone (including the bees) gets so much more for it!


Knowing what we know, when given the choice we’ll almost always choose hemp seed because it’s the responsible path.


There’s more…

  • Hemp seed provides more protein, similar to soy and egg whites, but a complete protein with higher bioavailability (90+% when cold-pressed thanks to edestin and albumin protein content) and all 9 essential amino acids.

  • Better source of essential amino acids, especially omega-3, 6 and 9 + GLA. Some hemp seed can have 6.2 x more omega-3 content than raw tuna.

  • An incredibly rich vitamin and mineral profile — especially E, B, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, and zinc — as well as both digestible and non-digestible fiber if you consume whole hemp seed.

  • Hemp hearts without hulls have far less fiber, but overall hemp seed products tend to be less processed.

Cannabinoids in Hemp Seed?

NO..no…no…hemp seed can't be intoxicating as commercial seed from regulated fields is devoid of cannabinoid content (THC, CBD, CBG, CBC, CBN, etc.), not to mention sterilized.


You MIGHT show slight cannabinoid content in your system after consuming a dump truck load of unprocessed raw seed in a day…but your jaw would go numb before that happens. The idea you can fail a drug test, get intoxicated, or extract cannabinoids from commercial hemp seed cultivars was likely perpetrated upon the public by the same corporate-pro-drug-war system that created and maintained industrial hemp farming prohibition in the first place.


Speaking of which, along with the plant disrupting conventional plastics producers, fossil fuel giants, building materials and clothing manufacturers, and more, major almond producers are nervously watching the 21st century American hemp industry grow with ferocity.


Revolutionizing the Almond Industry

Like so many others, we’ve munched a ton of almonds over the years without question. Switching to hemp seed isn’t because almonds are necessarily bad, but to help detoxify important food supply systems, and in deep connection to them are honey bee populations.


No one around here’s advocating for destruction of any of the roughly 104,000 jobs in the almond industry…we can create more green jobs via a hempen supply chain — quadruple the amount of jobs in both hemp seed farming and processing the seed into powders, milks, butters, hearts, animal feeds, chocolate covered hemp seed, biofuels…


Did You Know: roasted hemp seed is perhaps one of thee oldest crunchy-nutritious snacks in recorded human history? Only drawback to eating whole hemp seed are the dark-colored bits of fibrous hulls that easily gets between your teeth.


We don’t need to diminish any of the over $21 billion in economic revenue or the $11+ billion in added value the almond industry currently churns out…but rather, boost these numbers with a more environmentally-sustainable crop.


The Honey Bee Connection

Male cannabis (used to pollinate female cannabis to pump out the seed) produces abundant amounts of pollen, but no nectar. Bees can’t make honey from it, but early research shows hemp pollen is amazing for bees and bee colony health.


Does that shock you? Probably not. What part of the cannabis plant in all its forms isn’t useful and biofriendly?!?!?


The gist here’s that:

  • Almond farming requires a mind-blowing amount of bees (billions) every year.

  • A good percentage are forced to travel cross country in less than ideal conditions.

  • The bees are exposed to chemical treatments used on almond trees.

  • Hemp seed farming, which itself is far more organic and ecofriendly, requires no bees. Cannabis is capable of pollinating itself.

  • Almond companies can diversify into hemp seed and save on the exponentially rising costs of bee pollinators (upwards of $200 per hive).

Yep, so on the one hand, while the California almond industry RELIES on honey bees to thrive, hemp requires no bees at all. Incredibly more than 1.6 million hives (over a million trucked in from out of state) with anywhere from 10,000 to 60,000 bees per hive are used on California almond trees annually, but the numbers keep rising. In the late 90s almond trees covered around 500,000 acres, today that number’s risen above 1.4 million.


If you’re wondering, at 1.6 million hives with 50,000 bees per hive that comes to 80+ billion bees — requiring over 80% of all available commercial U.S. hives…just for the almonds. Come on! As hemp acres displace almond tree orchards, stress is relieved while providing highly-nutritious pollen for bees and seed-based foodstuffs for humans…

  • That also helps us put tons of CO2 back into the soil.

  • And helps replenish croplands with needed minerals like nitrogen from retting.

Demand for almonds like so many other human desires is increasingly hard to handle for the bees, which are also used to pollinate other crops throughout the west.


Collapse: Toxic Chemical Escapade

Almond trees need maintenance throughout the year, but are typically sprayed with protectants like fungicides around or at the same exact time honey bees are busy pollinating them. Hemp farming will a) reduce the amount of pesticides and fungicides America’s bees are exposed to, and b) dramatically reduce their travel demand.


Let’s look at these two stressors.


According to a good Mother Jones article by Tom Philpott published in 2015,

…pesticides — insect growth regulators and fungicides — bees encounter in their travels around almond groves. During the 2014 California almond bloom, between 15 percent and 25 percent of beehives suffered “severe” damage, ranging from complete hive collapse to dead and deformed brood (the next generation of bees incubating in the hive), the Pollinator Stewardship Council estimated. The die-off caused an uproar, and many beekeepers pointed a finger at pesticides.”

Note: Texas A & M researchers have also found bees sprayed with fungicides — almond growers have been known to use an assortment and sometimes combine them — were two to three times more likely to die.


Connections between chemicals used on crops/orchards and negative bee impacts are a no-brainer to us. Obviously the almond industry is doing what it can to improve its systems, but hemp makes everything so much easier as it requires far less insecticides and no adjuvants or pesticide enhancers that’ve been shown to impair honey bee ability to forage.


The second stressor Mr. Philpott touched on was the heavy travel requirements for honey bees to service the almond industry,

“The second threat to bee health from pollinating California’s massive almond bloom comes from long-distance travel. This one lies at the heart of the beekeeping industry’s itinerant business model. Does it compromise bee health to pack hundreds of hives onto a flatbed truck for cross-country trips? The stresses go well beyond the occasional truck wreck…”

Hmm, less exposure to all these commercial chemicals in gargantuan almond tree orchards after unhealthy long distance travel…instead, when visiting other crops in California they can forage on nearby hemp pollen for the health benefits to themselves and their colonies. Hemp isn’t 100% clean, but it simply demands far less treatments to thrive than almond trees.


Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, an entomologist who specializes in insect interactions with hemp plants through the CSU College of Agricultural Studies, had this to say in 2018 interviews,

“It’s shocking how valuable hemp is as a pollen resource for all kinds of bees…pollen is what bees need to raise their young, that’s their source of protein, fats, minerals…a wonderful resource.”

This specific subject — the health benefits of male hemp pollen for bees — needs more attention and study!


What We’re Proposing

Three things:

  1. Environmentally concerned consumers need to begin choosing American hemp seed more than almonds once this option is available to them (although everything is available online already — just a lack of American sources yet).

  2. Almond industry leaders should begin considering what a transition into hemp seed production looks like — do the numbers!

  3. Grain hemp (and fiber) farm acreage needs to explode in Central Valley California.

So far there’s been news of hemp farms going live to produce CBD in the Central Valley, which is a good development, but that’s purely female hemp and shouldn’t become widespread in large grain/fiber growing regions where pollen will be flying around everywhere.


If it does, there will inevitably be issues with outdoor males because of pollen drift!


Don’t setup a massive fight between strictly female-for-flower growers and seed/fiber growers — get the cannabis sectors of the state strategically put into place. Male hemp pollen can travel over 10 miles and if it gets onto for-cannabinoid cannabis, it could ruin crops.


In short, once a female cannabis plant is pollinated she pumps all of her resources into producing seed — cannabinoid content will drop by 30+% and biomass will fall by 50+%.


Greener Coproducts

As costs continue rising to produce almonds, the industry is making moves to better utilize the over 1 million tons of coproducts like nut shells, hulls, and woody biomass. Their goal of zero waste is admirable, but why not switch to hemp where the coproducts will be so much easier to move and better for the environment?

  • The ‘flower’ or very seedy female buds that grain crops produce is already highly-prized. This is the buddy mass where the seeds are produced.

  • Fiber from hemp seed cultivars isn’t as good as specific fiber cultivars, but nonetheless can be used by producers and manufacturers to create many thousands of products.

  • Hemp biomass highly outperforms almond coproducts when looking at biofuel.

  • Hemp coproducts can just as easily be applied to all the industries almond producers are eyeing, just at far less cost to their bottom lines when the environment and honey bee populations are factored in.

A Note on Water Usage

Yes, grain and fiber hemp requires a fair amount of water in its initial maturing phases until the roots are good and deep — 20+ feet. After that it can be far more drought resistant. Grain hemp also requires good irrigation, as crops will be destroyed by molds from too much moisture, or die if submerged for too long.


Thing is…Californian cultivars are likely to start out as tested/verified strains from Colorado, or perhaps Canada, but farmers will quickly adapt the plant to their regions. Only testing and experimentation will tell us what the water needs look like compared to current farming practices in the state.


The idea is when environmental costs and savings are factored in, along with how efficient and easily renewable the crop is, hemp is going to outperform.


Quick Conclusion

We could chat up a storm on the positive outcomes and benefits for all here of hemp farming in California, but I think the point of this article’s been made. What do you think? If you feel a point needs to be included or improved upon, let us know in the comment section below and we'll update the article :)

“Go hemp for honey bees!”
What's Darby Hemp About?

Human societies are only as strong as their resources. Our platform is inspired by the desire to support a resurgent American hemp industry - its people, its economic impacts, its environmental promises.

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