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Caffeine Improves Memory In Bees 41

sciencehabit writes "After a long day buzzing between flowers, even the most industrious worker bee could use a little help remembering which ones she wants to return to the next day. Some plants have a trick to ensure they end up at the top of the list: caffeinated nectar. A team of researchers bombarded honey bees with floral smells paired with sugary rewards, some of which contained the same levels of caffeine found in the nectar of coffee and citrus flowers. Three times as many bees remembered the odors associated with caffeine after 24 hours, when compared with the scents associated with sugar alone (abstract). When the researchers applied the stimulant directly to honey bee brains, it had a positive effect on the neurons associated with the formation of long term memories. Now, they want to see if bees go out of their way to feed on caffeinated nectar, perhaps even ignoring predators to do so—behavior that, if observed, could shed light on the neurological processes behind addiction."
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Caffeine Improves Memory In Bees

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  • Worker Bees (Score:5, Funny)

    by clam666 (1178429) on Friday March 08, 2013 @03:40PM (#43120069)
    But does this increase bee's productivity? Can we improve that productivity with 6-sigma? Let's have discussion during the break-out.
  • Ah, but why, doctor? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Friday March 08, 2013 @03:47PM (#43120129) Homepage Journal

    Half-baked hypothesis time.

    Caffeine is actually toxic to many arthropods, and may actually be a defence mechanism for plants. I propose that by being immune to it, bees could potentially make their honey less attractive to other insects; similarly, by putting it in their nectar, plants are defended against unwanted non-pollinators. The plant's mechanism would have evolved first, then grown exaggerated when bees made those variants more successful.

    • Caffeine is actually toxic to many arthropods, and may actually be a defence mechanism for plants.

      The article I read on this says exactly that. So the plants put out just enough to attract the pollinators.

      • Alright! Time to start the Journal of Validated Armchair Hypotheses.
        • Ah, don't believe me, eh? []

          Small amounts of caffeine and other chemicals such as nicotine are present in the nectar of more than 100 plant species. Plants use these often nasty-tasting chemicals to deter predators, but Wright's work suggests that they also use them to keep pollinators loyal to their flowers. It's a matter of getting the dose right; leak just the right amount into their nectar to lure in the bees, but not too much so that the bitter taste puts them off.

          • Oh no, I do. The abstract for the actual Science article says: "Caffeine concentrations in nectar did not exceed the bees' bitter taste threshold, implying that pollinators impose selection for nectar that is pharmacologically active but not repellent."
        • re: Alright! Time to start the Journal of Validated Armchair Hypotheses.
          JAVA-H, the new online journal with all that buzz!
          Alright, stick an extra "A" in that journal title and I'll be itchin' to get published in JAVA-H:
          - American? - too geographically limited? - J of American Validated Armchair Hypotheses
          - Anthropomorphic? - relating all research to human endeavors? birds do it, bees do it, even educated humans do it...
          - Axiomatically? - ooh, this one sounds even more scientific and even a bit
  • If you like something, you're more likely to remember it.
  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Friday March 08, 2013 @04:38PM (#43120807)

    Covered in bees!

  • The first one's free!

  • Turns out all those missing bees were at Starbucks drive ups demanding triple lattes with extra sugar.
  • A relative of caffeine that is in chocolate that is so powerful to dogs that chocolate can kill dogs or at least make them very sick. Bees are invertebrates. Compared to bees dogs are just like us. So its pretty hard to correlate any effect of caffeine on bees to an effect on humans.

  • If cafeine gives an advantage, it is strange that evolution did not cause bees and other animals to synthetize it on their own. That suggests there is a drawback somewhere.
  • I'm still waiting for caffeinated bacon.

To downgrade the human mind is bad theology. - C. K. Chesterton