A new study made by researchers at the University of Sussex in Great Britain reveals that some plants trick bees into pollinating them by producing caffeine.
Yes, you read that right. Some plants have learned how to draw more bees to pollinate them by producing caffeine in their nectar so that the bees think it’s more sugary than it actually is.
But how does this work?
Bees generally communicate with each other by moving their abdomens in distinctive patterns. These movements are similar to dancing. The caffeine in the plants’ nectar increases that movement, indicating to the other bees that a new plant with sugary, delicious pollen has been encountered, and thus increasing the pollination rates.
How were the researchers able to determine this?
Francis Ratnieks, professor of apiculture, has the answer. The team of scientists used 3 artificial flowers in their experiment, one containing a mix of water and sucrose, and the other one also containing caffeine.
The bees that attempted to pollinate the caffeine flower had an increased number of dances, over 4 times as many. It also attracted more bees.
Tags containing ID numbers were attached to the bees that drank the caffeinated mix and they were followed back to their hive. It was revealed that these bees, once returned home, influenced a large number other bees to go to the pollinated flowers. Even after the mixture ran out, the bees would still return to the flowers in questions.
This has started a new debate, since the trick the flowers picked up on and started using may be very good for them, but is not so good or healthy for the bees.
Bees that visit these hyper-caffeinated flowers have started to become addicted to caffeine. And while caffeine may improve the bees’ memory, according to a different study, and help them remember where the flowers were, it also causes them harm.
Ratnieks also added that even though the interest of the pollinator and those of the plants may often be similar, if not the same, in this case they are definitely different. The plants are tricking the bees into foraging for less sugary nectar, to the bees’ detriment, while they are still getting everything they need, and more.
How about you? Do you think you are a busy bee? Or are you just having too much caffeine?
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