Plants lace their nectar with drugs to make bees return


dn23255-1_300Plants may be spiking their nectar with addictive drugs to lure insects into spreading their pollen.

Geraldine Wright at Newcastle University, UK, and colleagues trained bees to associate a scent with a sugary reward. Bees given sugar water laced with caffeine were twice as likely to remember the scent – and stick their tongues out in anticipation – three days later, than bees fed on sugar alone.

To see how the caffeine was affecting the bees’ memories, the team looked at what happened in their brains when they were injected with the stimulant. Sure enough, the caffeine triggered changes in the neurons’ ability to pass messages vital for olfactory learning and memory.

Small amounts of caffeine and other chemicals such as nicotine are present in the nectar of more than 100 plant species. Plants use these often nasty-tasting chemicals to deter predators, but Wright’s work suggests that they also use them to keep pollinators loyal to their flowers. It’s a matter of getting the dose right; leak just the right amount into their nectar to lure in the bees, but not too much so that the bitter taste puts them off.

Looking at how far bees will go to get their caffeine hit – and whether they willingly put themselves in danger – could answer a fascinating question, says Wright:

“Can an insect become addicted to a drug?”

More work on bees could also shed light on how coffee affects us. The evidence for caffeine’s memory-enhancing capacity in humans is inconclusive, says Wright. Bees share many of our cerebral molecular building blocks, in particular the receptors for the neurotransmitter adenosine, which caffeine binds to. “We are confident that this is a common property across the animal kingdom,” says Wright.

Journal reference: Science, doi.org/kqq.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

CL Health News

Υγεία και Ενημέρωση - Medical reportage, headlines, research, interviews, conferences, tributes and tips, Doctor's Opinion

Hot Tall Blonde's Blog

ThE miNdS Eye: mY PoeTry, PerSpecTives & Journey into higher consciousness

Genetic Discovery SF

What's going on in the world of mental health and genetics

Coco J. Ginger Says

Ich Liebe Dich

Watts Up With That?

The world's most viewed site on global warming and climate change

Dark Matters a Lot

Dark Energy: It created us, it connects us, it is killing us, and it just might save us.

Science Springs

Dedicated to raising the visibility of the US contribution to worldwide scientific research plus non-USA organizations of note

ROAM ABOUT MIKE

Traveler, Writer, Photographer, Purveyor of Awesome

perpetual morphosis

A glimpse into the inner workings of my mind

School At Home

Our Homeschool Journey

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 171 other followers

%d bloggers like this: