Not too dissimilar to most humans, bees are caffeine junkies that have fallen prey to the ingredient that just beckons them over and over again to the same plant.
- The study is a follow-up to another research that claimed bees were better on caffeine
- Bees were 4 times more likely to direct other members of the colony to the caffeine-laced site
- Even after the site ran dry, honeybees obsessively returned
- This is highly beneficial for the plants with caffeine, but not so much for others, or the bees themselves
Researchers from the University of Sussex have followed up on an earlier study that suggests bees learn and remember new flowers more quickly under the influence of caffeine. That turned out to be true. However, the theory that it makes them better pollinators was debunked.
The team conducted a field study with two groups of bees, one who would feed on caffeinated nectar and a control group from decaf plants. The former can be commonly found in both coffee and citrus plants. It seemed that their draw, however, was stronger than that of sugar, even though they provided with virtually no better nutrition.
According to the researchers, after one sip of the caffeine, the bees were 4 times more likely to perform their waggle dance toward the plants. And, of course, to tell their friends about it. The study has shown that once the bees got hooked, they also directed other members of their colony to the same site.
According to one of the researchers, Roger Schurch, caffeine acts like an addictive drug to them. It essentially lures the insects over and tricks the bees into valuing the plants much more than they’re actually worth. And, unfortunately, this leaves other plants neglected.
The researchers found that honeybees frequented the caffeine-laced sites much more frequently than those with sucrose solution. They were persistent, energetic, and, like many people who find a new funny cat video, eager to share it with everyone else. The honeybees could feel ‘the buzz’.
What was also interesting, according to lead author Margaret Couvilon, was how long the effect of the caffeine lasted. After just one 3 hour-long exposure, the bees would flock back to the site obsessively even within the next couple of days. This has indicated a sort of addiction that caused them to stop looking for alternate sources, even when the site ran dry.
According to Couvilon, the honeybees who’d had a taste of caffeine apparently had less interest in finding other, equally good sources. Instead, they remained hooked on the location, and persisted to retuning even if there was nothing there anymore. This addictive ingredient was indeed beneficial for plants, but not so much for bees.
The honeybees are effectively tricked and exploited, by being entranced into pollinating the same plants over and over again instead of varying their paths. In spite of other viable options, they seem to fall under the influence of caffeine, and the impression that there’s nothing better out there, a burden that most of us have faced.
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