Humans aren't the only animals who benefit from a shot of caffeine before heading off to work. A new study published in Current Biology shows that bumble bees also benefit – working more efficiently and with improved memory – when buzzing on a dose of the good stuff.
Researchers led by Sarah Arnold, a senior lecturer of insect behavior and ecology at the University of Greenwich, have provided the first evidence that caffeinated bees are better equipped to find target crops, regardless of whether those targets contain caffeine. In other words, a little caffeine buzz helped the bees do their everyday jobs more efficiently.
Scientists have already shown that these bees will preferentially return to flowers that contain caffeinated nectar, which can improve their memories and boost their efficiency as foragers and pollinators.
But Arnold and her colleagues have now "disentangled the effects of caffeine improving memory" from the bees' perception of "caffeine as a reward," according to a study published on Wednesday in Current Biology. The results suggest that caffeine-primed bees really do have better memories, an insight that could be used to enhance the efficiency of commercial bees in pollinating specific crops.
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