Bees are caffeine and nicotine addicts
Caffeinated flowers and nicotine-laced nectar are a bee's version of coffee and cigarettes.
Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 02:38 AM
It's not quite the same as an addiction to coffee and cigarettes, but new research out of the University of Haifa in Israel has shown that bees, like humans, can become natural addicts of caffeine and nicotine. Bees in the study consistently preferred nectar that contained small amounts of the addictive substances over nectar which was nicotine or caffeine free, reports Israel21c.
The study worked by offering the bees artificial nectar composed of various levels of natural sugars and various levels of caffeine and nicotine, alongside "clean" nectar that comprised sugar alone.
Although the nectar concentrations were controlled artificially, most of the conditions chosen by researchers are replicated in nature in the flowers bees are known to pollinate. For instance, nicotine is found primarily in the floral nectar of various types of tobacco plants, while caffeine is found mostly in citrus flowers like grapefruit.
The results showed that bees definitively preferred nectar containing nicotine and caffeine over the nectar containing just sugar. Furthermore, it turns out that bees can be astute caffeine and nicotine connoisseurs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their favorite nicotine concentration was 1 milligram per liter, which is similar to the concentration typically found in nature.
Scientists speculate that plants which produce the addictive nectar might have evolved to do so because of the advantage it gave them in attracting pollinators.
These findings are particularly interesting given another recent study that revealed that lots of sex is key to honeybee survival. Though in the case of the bees, buzzing about in a field of flowers sounds a lot more romantic than an after-sex cigarette.