A spoonful of honey helps the medicine go down. And in this case, may just be all the medicine your plants need! Honey bees may play a greater role in the cultivation of cannabis than you would think. And vice versa.
We’ve come to get down with the sticky, nitty-gritty of cannabis cultivation. Many people often associate the health of any given crop with the bees that tend to it. Our fuzzy little friends are pollinators that help crops to grow and flourish. Without them, many different types of fruit, vegetables, and flowers wouldn’t be able to produce their beautiful blooms and vibrant vegetation without the help of the bumbling buzzers. However, even an amateur marijuana cultivator can tell you that pollinating the plants is generally a terrible idea- as the only plants that any farmer wants to see in their crops are female. So it’s hard to see why any cannabis cultivator would want the help of the honey bee in their crops.
But what if bees, and the honey they produce could actually help in other areas of crop cultivation and help? It turns out, honey can provide your crop with the sticky-icky you may just be looking for, without the direct need of the bees themselves.
First, it’s important to know a thing or two about the ideal outcome for a crop. Whether it’s part of a small personal stash garden, or for large scale industrial production of commercialized marijuana, there are very specific things growers need to be aware of.
For starters, only female plants are viable producers of what we think of when we’re talking about marijuana. Marijuana, weed, Mary Jane, and a million other fun filled monikers mean just one thing- the sticky green and often crystalline buds that grow into ‘cones’ on a mature female plant. How do you sex a plant you may ask? Many farmers being by purchasing feminized seeds, or seeds that are engineered to be female. If you’re unable to get a hold of these strictly feminine seeds for whatever reason, you’ll have to let the plants grow for at least 6 weeks before they have their own gender reveal party.
At about 6 weeks, marijuana plants undergo what is referred to as a “pre-flower” stage. Consider it a bit like plant puberty. Up until this point, the cannabis plant has been focused on growing taller and bigger, at the pre-flower stage, the plants are beginning to transition from growing up strong, to glowingly strongly female or male. The females produce small “buds” or calyx and the males show “balls” or pollen sacks. If plants aren’t sexed during the pre-flower stage, they will continue to grow. Focusing their energy on producing sex traits, or their male and female parts, so that they can eventually pollinate.
Buds are most notable thanks to their production of wispy white hairs of the pistol that will eventually unfold from the initial calyx. If allowed to grow up without being pollinated, female plants will grow into the tell tale cones that are covered in sticky crystals and lots of “hair”. Male plants, if allowed to grow into the flowering stage, will create grape like clusters of these sacks that will eventually burst and dump pollen all over the plant and surrounding area, hoping to be picked up and whisked away to an awaiting female pistol. However, if male plants are allowing to grow, burst, and pollinate, the female plant will never create a fell and satisfying bud cone, and the entire crop will be ruined.
Because of this, most male plants are eradicated from the crop the moment a cultivator realizes they are there.
So, now you know that the last thing you want your plants to do is pollinate, why in the world would you ever introduce incredible pollinators, like bees, into your crop?! Short answer - you wouldn’t. Most bees aren’t even naturally attracted to cannabis plants. For one, cannabis plants don’t produce nectar, which leaves bees without any real reason to buzz around. Secondly- bees don’t have an endocannabinoid system (unlike us lucky humans) so they don’t get high if they were to eat the plant. In nature, bees aren’t really even attracted to the emerald green giants. In fact, most professional apiaries have to train their hives to forage from a weed field, should they want to produce some type of hemp infused honey.
There has been some evidence that bees can use certain products of marijuana plants to create a type of cleaner/filler called propolis, which bees use to sterilize and repair their hives. But ultimately bees and weed don’t generally mix. However, honey is a different story.
Outside of finding yourself some sweet feminized seeds, another way of guaranteeing you’ve created an all female cast for your crop yield is by way of cloning. Cloning (as is pretty much implied in the name) takes a piece of one specific plant and creates a genetically identical copy in a new plant. For plant enthusiasts of the at home variety, this is a pretty common occurrence. Propagating your houseplants with cuttings or leave starts is a great way to share your collection of stunning greenery with friends at no extra cost to you.
Taking a cutting from a mature plant and placing it in water will generally stimulate the shoot to produce roots, thanks to indwelling rooting hormones. While all plants contain their own type of self-produced rooting hormone, you can improve your chances of creating a healthy clone (and shave off quite a bit of time) by introducing an exogenous rooting hormone.
Many producers use synthetically created rooting hormones that are quick and effective, but if you want to use a more organic approach- you guessed it! Honey can be used as a rooting hormone. With antimicrobial and antifungal properties, honey will encourage root growth while discouraging the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi that could invade your soil.
To use honey as a rooting hormone, make sure that you have pure, organic honey. That is free from high fructose corn syrup or other sweet fillers. Take the sitting from the plant as you normally would, and coat the cut end of the plant in honey. Dip the stem in about 1-2 cm of honey and then place it into your desired growth medium. It can take a little longer to see results with honey than it takes with its synthetic cousins, but knowing that your plant is chemical free is often worth the wait.
Honey can also be used as a fertilizer for cannabis plants. Honey can provide full grown plants with necessary carbon, and while the plants themselves don’t need the sugar (as the produce their own) the soil does need the sweet stuff. Honey will support the microflora of the mature soil, encouraging it to flourish, which is something plants definitely need.
Honey can be used on its own to help plants flourish, but it’s most useful when added to a fertilizer mix, to create plant superfood. Home growers can create these tasty treats for their own crops by searching around the internet or gardening books for a fertilizer recipe that best suits the needs of their plants. If you plan on using honey on its own, it’s important not to use too much. Honey is best added to plants in an extremely dilute mixture of about five to fifteen milliliters per gallon. Use the mixture occasionally to water your plants with. Alternating with filtered water between feedings.
Honey also helps to raise the Brix levels in plants that bear fruit. This will boost the sugar levels of your plant and increases fruiting and flowering. It can also lend a sweet taste to buds and intensify aroma and flavor.
Honey has an incredibly long shelf life, and has a multitude of creative uses throughout the household. While it definitely makes a great rooting hormone, as well as play an integral role in plant superfood- it can also be beneficial in treating superficial wounds, thanks to those antibacterial and antifungal properties. Honey is also commonly mixed with CBD and used in treatment of arthritis, acne, hay fever, ease the symptoms associated with cancer treatments, and is even thought to help boost the immune system!
Not to mention is tastes great. Keep in mind that not all honey is created equal. As with everything in a strictly organic household, make sure that you are comfortable with your honey producer and the methods they use to collect and package it. Always double check labels to ensure that the honey you’re getting is, well… actually honey, and not filled with any additives.