Plants drug honey bees with caffeine.

honeybee-flower1I’m sure that caffeine has many positive effects for me. And it turns out that the little brains of honey bees are influenced as well.

Some plants are effectively drugging the bees with caffeine. It was thought that caffeine was an anti-herbivore response. But it modifies bee brains as well.

In a long-term memory experiment caffeinated bees remembered an odour better than their non-caffeinated sisters. Three times as many bees on caffeine stuck out their tongues for a reward 24 hours after training, compared to their decaffeinated sisters, and twice as many recalling it 72 hours later.  Caffeine thus appears to help the bees learn.

Plants are thought likely to benefit because the bees remember where the tasty reward is and come back for more (thus more pollination).

Caffeine modifies how bee brain neurons respond to learning and memory tasks. It appears to result in a stronger reaction of bee-brain cells to sensory input. These stronger reactions in term causes a long-term potentiation, which is a major mechanism resulting in memory formation.

I’m going to keep drinking my coffee…

The full article is available in Science Magazine. A good additional reports is available here at NBC news.

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3 thoughts on “Plants drug honey bees with caffeine.

  1. Wow! Love this site & the pictures are exquisite! Well done you!
    Can you please explain about the honey bees? Is this correct:

    The female worker bee sucks the nectar from the flowers & gathers / swaps pollen from various plants (& pollinating them in the process). Now, in the picture above, what’s lumped on the hairy legs: pollen balls? Is it just nectar they use in the hive or is it some of the pollen? Am curious because of the honey & wax by-product. I wish to know so I can explain to my Kindy class (4 & 5 year olds 🙂 They are now more relaxed around & appreciative of our bees. We had an influx of thirsty bees, so instead of bringing in the exterminator to ‘nuke’ them, we consulted our local apiarist who told us to put out trays of wet sand (so they can drink & not drown). Now everybody is happy & I want to keep it that way. 🙂 Carol

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