The caffeine buzz isn’t just for humans any more. Honeybees may get a jolt of caffeine from some of the flowers they visit, and it helps them remember where to return for more nectar. That’s the bold claim made in a study published today in Science by UK researcher Geraldine Wright and her colleagues.
Why would the flowers want bees to remember? It’s because the honeybees help plants reproduce by spreading their pollen. The US Fish and Wildlife Service stated that pollinators like bees are responsible for fertilizing about 75 percent of our flowering plants and almost 75 percent of our food crops. Without pollinators, there would be no chocolate or coffee, they said.
Apparently, the plants are well aware of that too, and coffee plants in particular offer a nice caffeine buzz in their flowers to keep the bees coming back. But even flowers you don’t expect, such as citrus, offer small amounts of caffeine to tempt their pollination partners. In fact, many species of plants may have some caffeine in their nectar, but we humans just haven’t gotten around to testing for it yet.
Now you may be asking yourself just how a researcher figures out whether a not a bee can remember a tasty flower. They studied the honeybees in a lab setting, where the bees got scented nectar. Some of the nectar drinks had caffeine, and some didn’t. The next day, they allowed the honeybees to smell the same scent.
The bees that remembered that the scent represented a tasty nectar stuck out their feeding tubes. The ones that forgot didn’t. After 24 hours, the caffeinated bees enjoyed a memory that was three times as good as the decaff bees. After 72 hours, their memory was still twice as good.
Now I’ve got a question. Remember those crazy 100,000 killer bees that went for the park workers the other day in Tampa, Florida?
What kind of a caffeine buzz do you think they had going?