Who says coffee is only good for people? The bees that were given ‘caffeine’ also worked more efficiently than usual

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2021-07-29 21:23:09

Many people can’t imagine how they would start their day without a cup of coffee. And caffeine may be more than just a stimulant. It helps a person focus on the work they need to get done. And it turns out, that has the same effect on bees.

Previous studies have shown that bees will preferentially seek out flowers that have been ‘primed’ with caffeine. But it has been hypothesized that bees are simply pursuing a craving for a favorite stimulant.

And a new study was done to better understand the effects of caffeine on bees. Are bees targeting a stimulant they crave, or can caffeine actually enhance their memory of specific flowers, making them more effective at taking nectar from that flower?

“When you give bees caffeine, they don’t do anything like fly in a loop, but they seem to be more motivated and more productive.” Sarah Arnold, author of the new study, said. “We wanted to see if caffeine intake helped their brains make a positive association between certain floral scents and rewards.”

So, instead of brewing caffeine into the target flowers, the researchers gave the bees caffeine right at their hive, the same way we drink a cup at home before going to work. Experiment combining caffeine with a strawberry-flavored sugar solution.

The scientists’ plan is to test whether bees that are given caffeine are better at targeting artificial flowers that have the same strawberry scent. For comparison, the second group of bees were given the same caffeine-free strawberry solution and the third group received an odorless sugar solution.

Freed in a test environment with two types of artificial flowers, the bees with the caffeine breakfast preferred the strawberry-scented flowers in greater numbers than the other bees. Specifically, the rate went up to 70%, while less than 45% of the bees that only ate the sugar targeted the strawberry scented flower.

The researchers also noted that the bees with caffeine improved their flower visitation rates faster than the other groups. While the study did not specifically explore the effects of caffeine on the animals’ motor skills, the researchers hypothesized caffeine’s enhanced efficiency and feeding dynamics.

Who says coffee is only good for people?  The bees that were given caffeine also worked more efficiently than usual - Photo 2.

Drinking coffee every morning can help people stay awake and focus on work.

As for humans, caffeine has been found to affect memory acquisition. But this is the first evidence that it has the ability to enhance bee behaviour. The researchers say the findings could be of considerable value to beekeepers.

Currently, many farms have large numbers of bee pollinators every year. But a recent study found that only about a quarter of those bees visit the target crop, with the majority being distracted by other nearby wildflowers. Arnold suggests that using caffeine to lure bees to focus on a particular crop could benefit both farmers and the surrounding natural ecosystem.

“We leave wildflower resources to wild bees and beekeepers get more value for their money with the hive,” he said. Arnold said. “It’s a win-win solution for everyone.”

New research published in the journal Current Biology.

Reference New Atlas

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