Ever thought that no one but us humans can get hooked on the favourite breakfast beverage, coffee? You better think again. New research uncovers even bees find caffeine based drinks, nectar, tantalising! Another study found that honey bees may choose caffeinated nectar over un-caffeinated, or an otherwise equivalent substitute to the other.
In this way, plants may be spiking their nectar with caffeine as an approach to go off less expensive products, it said.
"We describe a novel way in which some plants, through the action of a secondary compound like caffeine that is present in nectar, may be tricking the honey bee by securing loyal and faithful foraging and recruitment behaviours, perhaps without providing the best quality forage," says Margaret Couvillon, one of the leaders in research at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom.
"The effect of caffeine is akin to drugging, where the honey bees are tricked into valuing the forage as higher quality than it really is," explained researcher Roger Schurch.
The scientists tested the honeybees' reactions to a mixture of sucrose with field-sensible measurements of caffeine and ones without caffeine.
They found that the caffeine made bees rummage more and to guide their companions to the caffeinated scrounge most of the time with waggle dances. (A waggle dance is the direction the bee moves in relation to the hive indicates direction; if it moves vertically the direction to the source is directly towards the Sun, the duration of the waggle part of the dance signifies the distance)
Honey bees were more obstinate about coming back to the destinations where they had previously discovered caffeinated nectar, even after the feeder had run dry.
After tasting caffeine, honey bees were also less motivated to hunt down other resources, a type of conduct that could be valuable when the well runs dry.
In view of their observations of the individual honey bees' behaviours, the researcher’s model suggests that caffeinated nectar could lessen honey production in colonies if plants lessen the sweetness of their nectar. Something interesting to think about.
The discoveries were distributed in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.