Bees love caffeine and while their addiction isn’t necessarily harmful, it could lead to poor decisions that reduce the efficiency of the colony, according to a new study.
The study, which was published on Thursday in the journal Current Biology, builds upon prior research into caffeinated bees which dictates that those exposed to the stimulant are not only able to get to know a new flower more quickly, but also able to remember new flowers for longer periods of time.
Researchers behind the new study, led by Margaret Couvillon with the University of Sussex, took to the field to put the prior study’s findings to the test. What they found was that bees can become quite the little addicts when they’re exposed to caffeine-laced nectar and once they’re hooked, the efficiency of their foraging drops.
So while bees jacked up on caffeine do work harder to locate food and communicate the location of food they find to other bees, their foraging turns to near obsession as they not only check the same caffeinated flowers over and over, but perform their food announcing waggle dance more often. As a result, the colony sends out what National Geographic reports to be four times the number of worker bees to caffeinated flowers.
Couvillon was quoted by The Washington Post as having explained that bees exposed to caffeine are “less likely to check the surrounding area,” as they’re essentially “hooked” on that particular location.
If they’ve had caffeine, they’re less likely to check the surrounding area (…) They’re really hooked on that location.
To the contrary, bees exposed to nicotine laced plants, seemingly repulsed by the bitter taste, move more quickly from one flower to the next, according to prior research into nicotine in nectar.