Bees Want a Little Caffeine Kick with Their Morning Smoke
Kidding of course, but science discovered that caffeine boosts a bee’s memory. Out on a picnic and notice bees buzzing your soda can? Like us, plants took a cue a very long time ago by adding it to nectar.
These alkaloids are nasty tasting to herbivores and keep them from eating the plant, but the pollinators don’t stop visiting. That begs the question, “Why”. Pollinators don’t like bitter, but at low concentrations, bees appear to prefer caffeine infused nectar. The same with plants containing nicotine, bees love it.
Coffea and Citrus plants add caffeine into their sweet nectar. So why is it added? For the same reason humans ingest caffeine, to enhance cognition, memory and stamina.
Simply with sensory stimuli, the plant basically makes its flowers easier for the bee to learn, find and remember. These plants developed levels of these addictive substances to aid in attracting, while not repelling bees. Science does not know if bees have a preference or an addiction to caffeine or nicotine.
So science spiked the bee’s sweet nectar with a tiny drop of caffeine and found twice as many bees remembered the nectar scent of the treated flower three days later. Pretty cool, smarter bees, but not to mention, plants making sure the bees keep coming back!
Sleepy Bees Waggle Dance but a Slow Waltz
Who knew bees could be sleep deprived, but sleep deprived bees might be giving the wrong waggle. If their ability to communicate was diminished, this affected their efficiency of the nest-mates to forage by giving the wrong information.
How did scientists come to this conclusion? By scientists keeping bees up all night, bothering them continuously to the point of exhaustion. The bees were sent to forage, and upon their return, the scientists compared them to rested bees and watched them waggle. The rested bees were successful in sending the worker bees to the flower patch, but the exhausted bees made more errors when communicating the direction of the flowers rich in nectar.
Sleepy bees also have “difficult relearning“, who knew? Without sleep, the bees’ brains could not properly secure memories from the previous night, and the bees were forgetful. A cup of coffee might have given those sleepy bees a morning buzz. They should take a cue from the bees feeding on caffeinated nectar!
Bee Venom Gives a Knockout Blow to the AIDS Virus
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri have uncovered the virus killing toxin in bee venom which can kill the virus of AIDS. Remarkably the technique not only kills the virus, it leaves surrounding cells intact. So far, they have only shown this successfully in vitro, but it could lead to a possible cure in living creatures someday. Currently, they are only focusing on developing preventive treatments.
“Part of what makes the HIV virus so difficult to kill is its tiny size. It’s many times smaller than your average blood cell, which allows the sneaky virus to infect and kill white blood cells” says Before It’s News — “the very cells that are supposed to rub out viral infections,” says WebMD. More information on this fascinating discovery can be found here.
I have always been intrigued by bees from a very young age. Maybe we are programmed to see this creature as a miracle. It seems that much the bee comes in contact with, does or produces benefits us. Does this development not make you really appreciate the bee? How about wanting to make sure bees stay healthy and working?
Bees Get a Charge
Think caffeine is the only kick the bees are getting? Bees are also getting lured in by floral electrical fields sent out by those crafty flowers which react to the naturally charged bees. Honeybees usually possess a positive electric potential, where flowers often exhibit a negative potential. Hey opposites attract! It probably gives the sleepy bee a jolt too.
When bees are out flying around, air friction and the friction of their body parts causes the bee to become positively charged. When the bees lands on a flower, the negatively charged pollen just jumps on the bee and sticks like Velcro.
Bees get sweet nectar and flowers send off pollen. Any cue that increases pollination and foraging efficiency should be mutually beneficial to both parties, right? Right.
This study was reported in Science.
It is hard not to have respect for this tiny, remarkable creature. Bees rule!
More from Science on Bees:
Bees orient to the Earth’s magnetic field, helping in comb building and pointing the direction home. Honey bees have iron (Fe3O4) in their butts!
Bees can’t find home.