You’ve heard the expression “busy bee,” but now a new study shows just what keeps these bees going – caffeine.
Like the millions of morning commuters with coffee in hand, honeybees receive a shot of caffeine when pollinating certain flowers, says a study reported on by a March 7 AP release.
While not all plants produce caffeine, certain flowers contain as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, and the caffeine boost acts as a memory aid for the honeybee, directing them back to those same flowers day after day, much like our favorite drive-thru coffee hotspot.
The caffeine from flowering plants and certain citrus plants, such as nectar from orange and grapefruit blossoms, helps the bee to remember and seek out the same flowers. In turn, the trees and plants benefit from perpetual pollination.
The study was conducted by Geraldine Wright of Newcastle University in England and reported Thursday by the journal Science.
Scientists trained individual bees to expect a sugary drink when their olfactory receptors detected a certain floral scent. When the test bees went to those flowers, some received the nectar-like concentrations of caffeine and others did not.
A day later, the same bees were exposed again to the scent to see if they had learned which flowers to go to. Watching to see if the bees extended their feeding tubes to show they were ready to sip the nectar, the bees that had previously received the caffeine drink were three times as likely to remember as the bees that hadn't. After 72 hours, they were twice as likely.
Wright said that other plants are now under study. Thus far, over 100 species of plants have been found to contain caffeine.