Buzzing On Caffeine: Study Finds Stimulant Makes Bumblebees Faster And Smarter

·2 min read

If you needed another reason to reach out to that caffeine fix first thing in the morning, here is one. It is not only human beings that the stimulant can recharge. Even bumblebees function faster with better memory after a dose of caffeine.

Researchers at the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich, UK, conducted an experiment that proved that caffeine helps bees target a specific flower. In previous studies, it was already established that bumblebees are organically attracted to caffeinated flowers. However, the aim of this study was to find if the insects are just inclined towards caffeine or does caffeine make them target specific flowers, and improve their memory.

Researchers conducted an experiment where they divided 86 bumblebees into groups of three. The bees were sent to forage for food, and if they chose and associated with a specific synthetic odour blend (strawberry in this case), they were rewarded with sugary nectar. The difference was, one group of bumblebees was given a caffeinated sugar solution as a reward, the second group was given a decaffeinated sugar solution as a reward, and the third group was given a decaffeinated sugar solution without any specific synthetic odour.

When these groups were set loose in a flight area, two robotic flowers — primary (one with the strawberry odour) and distractor flower (the one with no odour) — the results were fascinating. The caffeinated bees went to primary flower much higher than the decaffeinated bees, which proved that caffeine had a noticeable impact on their memory and their ability to recognize the odour of the flower. The researchers also noted that the caffeinated bees were much faster when compared to the other bees.

In an interview with Science Daily, Sarah Arnold, one of the researchers conducting the experiment, said, “This experiment can have big implications in the agriculture sector. The growers will get value for money out of their commercial swarm as the wild bees will get less competition for their natural food resources. In other words, the experiment can give birth to targeted pollination, which is a highly efficient form of pollination.”


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