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Caffeine Improves Memory In Bees 41

Posted by Soulskill
from the able-to-find-their-bee-dentures-reliably dept.
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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  • Ah, but why, doctor? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Friday March 08, 2013 @04:47PM (#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.

All great ideas are controversial, or have been at one time.