Study: Bees make better pollinators after buzzing on caffeine

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — If caffeine makes you more productive, then you have something in common with our pollinator friend, the bee.

According to a study published in Current Biology, honey bees fed caffeine form longer-lasting olfactory memory associations, which means plants that have caffeine-infused nectar would receive more visits from these tiny pollinators than without.

“When you give bees caffeine, they don’t do anything like fly in loops, but do seem to be more motivated and more efficient,” says Dr. Sarah Arnold, a behavioral entomologist at Greenwich University in London, in a media release. “We wanted to see if providing caffeine would help their brains create a positive association between a certain flower odor and a sugar reward.”

There are environmental benefits learned from this study. According to the study authors, using the caffeine method used in the study could boost fruit yields because the bees are more focused on visiting and pollinating the crop flowers. It could also reduce competition with wild bees for wildflowers by keeping the managed bees around the crop.

“It’s like a person drinking coffee while revising for an exam. We generally know how coffee helps us concentrate and stay focussed, as well as helping us remember complex information better, and what our limit is. We’ve shown that caffeine increases the bees’ enthusiasm and activity generally and it makes the memory formation stronger,” said Arnold.

Study authors believe this could influence beekeepers to redesign commercial colonies to enhance bees’ forage focus or even bias bees to forage on a specific crop.

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