Did You Know – Bees Get a Boost From Caffeine
Bees get a natural buzz from caffeine in the nectar of coffee and citrus flowers, researchers have discovered.
What’s more, the caffeine improves honeybee memory, helping the pollinators to remember a flower’s scent, and probably its location too, according to the study, published in Science.
The nectar in the flower of a coffee plant contains almost as much caffeine as a cup of instant coffee. However, high amounts of caffeine are really a turn off to bees. Too much of this compound repels them.
“This work helps us understand the basic mechanisms of how caffeine affects our brains,” Wright said in a press release. “What we see in bees could explain why people prefer to drink coffee when studying.”
Co-author Julie Mustard of Arizona State University added, “Although human and honeybee brains obviously have lots of differences, when you look at the level of cells, proteins and genes, human and bee brains function very similarly. Thus, we can use the honeybee to investigate how caffeine affects our own brains and behaviors.”
Several plants, including species in the genuses Coffea and Citrus, produce nectar that contains caffeine; the concentration of caffeine in some of these flowers rivals that in a cup of instant coffee. We know what effects caffeine has on humans, but how does caffeinated nectar affect bees pollinating these plants?
To answer this question, the researchers taught bees to associate the odor of a particular chemical, called 1-hexanol, with a sugary reward. For some of the bees, the scientists added a small dose of caffeine to the sucrose reward solution in order to determine whether the consumption of caffeine affected how well the bees learned or remembered the association.
There was a small effect of caffeine on the rate of learning: bees that were given caffeine-laced nectar learned to associate the scent with the reward a bit faster than the bees that weren’t given caffeine. Where the researchers saw the biggest difference, however, was in the bees’ long-term memory. When given caffeine, bees were three times more likely to recall the association 24 hours after being trained, and twice as likely to remember it 72 hours later.
WHAT WE SHOULD BE AWARE OF – BEE DECLINES DRIVEN BY COMBINED STRESS FROM PARASITES, PESTICIDES, AND LACK OF FLOWERS
Bees are subject to numerous pressures in the modern world. The abundance and diversity of flowers has declined; bees are chronically exposed to cocktails of agrochemicals, and they are simultaneously exposed to novel parasites accidentally spread by humans. Climate change is likely to exacerbate these problems in the future.
DID YOU KNOW – BEES HAVE MAGNETIC REMANENCE
Honey bees orient to the earth’s magnetic field. This ability may be associated with a region of transversely oriented magnetic material in the front of the abdomen. The magnetic moment apparently develops in the pupal state and persists in the adults.
The Flowhive Is Expected To Transform The Beescape Of The World