Caffeinated Worker Bees Are Better Worker Bees, Study Finds

A little caffeine goes a long way when it comes to these pollinators.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Bees are essential pollinators that make the vegetables and fruits we so enjoy possible. But bees don't always stay on track and sometimes pollinate where it is of no use to humans.

Now, a new study is finding that caffeinating bees make them more productive and focused workers.

"Here, we measure whether bees can be trained to locate a food source using a learned odor do so more or less efficiently when also exposed to caffeine during the learning phase. We “primed” inexperienced bumblebees by exposing them either to a sugar solution, a sugar solution and a target synthetic odor blend, or a caffeinated sugar solution and the odor blend," write the researchers in their study.

What the researchers essentially did was expose a particular group of worker bees to a particular scent while giving them caffeine. They then found that those bees were more likely to seek out that scent when released into lab fields.

In other words, the caffeine was helping them stay on track. Sarah Arnold, an ecologist at the University of Greenwich and an author on the paper, told Scientific American she speculates that the bees are thinking the following: “When I had that odor in the past, I got this really nice [caffeinated] sugar and I remember that really clearly.”

Previous study

This is not the first time that a positive correlation between bees and caffeine has been made. Back in 2013, a study revealed that caffeine alters pollinator behavior by enhancing their memory of reward. 

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This wasn't all good news though. The caffeine made the bees work harder but it made them misjudge the quality of the food they collected making them less productive overall. 

The new study did not report such a finding as it only tested the bees in scented lab fields, but it would be an interesting question to ponder.

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