Plants Use Caffeine to Lure Bees!

Our pals over at the Science Section of the New York Times report ‘Plants Use Caffeine to Lure Bees, Scientists Find.’

Yes, boys and girls…

Nectar That Gives Bees a Buzz Lures Them Back for More

New research has found that caffeine-laced nectar enhances the learning process for bees, so that they are more likely to return to those flowers.

How about that?

Nothing kicks the brain into gear like a jolt of caffeine. And that goes double for honey bees.

bee-coffee-flower(A honeybee visiting a coffee flower – Image: Geraldine Wright)

And they don’t need to stand in line for a triple soy latte. A new study shows that the naturally caffeine-laced nectar of some plants enhances the learning process for bees, so that they are more likely to return to those flowers.

“The plant is using this as a drug to change a pollinator’s behavior for its own benefit,” said Geraldine Wright, a honeybee brain specialist at Newcastle University in England, who, with her colleagues, reported those findings in Science on Thursday.

The research, other scientists said, not only casts a new light on the ancient evolutionary interaction between plants and pollinators, but is an intriguing confirmation of deep similarities in brain chemistry across the animal kingdom.

The effect of caffeine was not obvious at first, but as Dr. Wright refined her experiments, it became more clear that the chemical had a profound effect on memory. “If you put a low dose of caffeine in the reward when you teach them this task, and the amount is similar to what we drink when we have weak coffee, they just don’t forget that the odor is associated with the reward,” she said.

Insect and human brains are vastly different, and although caffeine has many effects in people, like increasing alertness, whether it improves memory is unclear.



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