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Caffeine Improves Memory In Bees

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the able-to-find-their-bee-dentures-reliably dept.

Science 41

sciencehabit writes "After a long day buzzing between flowers, even the most industrious worker bee could use a little help remembering which ones she wants to return to the next day. Some plants have a trick to ensure they end up at the top of the list: caffeinated nectar. A team of researchers bombarded honey bees with floral smells paired with sugary rewards, some of which contained the same levels of caffeine found in the nectar of coffee and citrus flowers. Three times as many bees remembered the odors associated with caffeine after 24 hours, when compared with the scents associated with sugar alone (abstract). When the researchers applied the stimulant directly to honey bee brains, it had a positive effect on the neurons associated with the formation of long term memories. Now, they want to see if bees go out of their way to feed on caffeinated nectar, perhaps even ignoring predators to do so—behavior that, if observed, could shed light on the neurological processes behind addiction."

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and people (1)

Doug Otto (2821601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43119985)

/just sayin

Re:and people (1)

LordNightwalker (256873) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120191)

Really? Because the only reason I remember where I left my mug is because I always leave it in the same spot; if I leave it elsewhere, I end up looking all over the place to see where it's gone to. So I tend to forget where my source of caffeine is. I've been known to occasionally take a clean mug at work because I forgot there was one on my desk already.

Then again, except for the queen which can live up to 5 years, drones and worker bees live significantly less than a year (4 months max.), all of which is significantly less than my age. Maybe just a case of age beating the effects of caffeine.

And you also have to take into account that I don't consider caffeine to be critical to my survival, contrary to the way a bee sees a source of nectar. We tend to forget the less important things, and remember the critical stuff with much higher accuracy. Except for the flawed ones (think Darwin Awards nominees), obviously.

Damn it, I'm overanalyzing this, aren't I?

Re:and people (2)

bored_engineer (951004) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120325)

Damn it, I'm overanalyzing this, aren't I?

Too much coffee?

I don't think it's age. I've not been able to remember where I set my mug since I started drinking coffee. I've been losing my glasses since before I drank coffee. They're just details that don't seem important when they happen.

Re:and people (1)

LordNightwalker (256873) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120471)

Damn it, I'm overanalyzing this, aren't I?

Too much coffee?

Absolutely! :D

I don't think it's age. I've not been able to remember where I set my mug since I started drinking coffee. I've been losing my glasses since before I drank coffee. They're just details that don't seem important when they happen.

True, at work I usually have more pressing matters to worry about than keeping track of some generic office mug...

Re:and people (1)

Vreejack (68778) | about a year and a half ago | (#43122369)

Other studies have already shown that coffee has no effect on human memory unless you are exhausted, in which case it helps. As any stimulant might.

Only thing bees need to remember (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43120049)

Is that they're bees. Tiny, flying murder machines.

Re:Only thing bees need to remember (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120095)

The Internet is very adamant that bees are the good guys [wordpress.com] , actually.

Re:Only thing bees need to remember (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43120401)

Except, you know, for African Killer Bees [youtube.com] !

Re:Only thing bees need to remember (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43123935)

Good thing I'm a smoker. I've noticed that my cigarette smoke actually does calm bees down.

Re:Only thing bees need to remember (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year and a half ago | (#43125711)

They just want to get Americanized and just hang out.

Re:Only thing bees need to remember (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120123)

Is that they're bees. Tiny, flying murder machines.

Bees know nothing about how flying murder machines [youtube.com] work, except by harsh experience.

Re:Only thing bees need to remember (1)

Forever Wondering (2506940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120253)

Perhaps they only became tiny, flying murder machines after being overcaffeinated ...

Re:Only thing bees need to remember (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120273)

Tiny, flying suicidal murder machines.

Re:Only thing bees need to remember (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | about a year and a half ago | (#43121201)

Yeah, let's not sugarcoat this: these things are nature's Kamikaze.

Re:Only thing bees need to remember (1)

jxander (2605655) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120407)

You're thinking of wasps. Bees are actually pretty friendly, and will mind their own business for the most part. Wasps will chase you down, stab you repeatedly, and then they'll go to work on your family and loved ones.

Re:Only thing bees need to remember (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43123345)

Is that they're bees. Tiny, flying murder machines.

No. No, they don't. Now go pollinate my crops.

Worker Bees (4, Funny)

clam666 (1178429) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120069)

But does this increase bee's productivity? Can we improve that productivity with 6-sigma? Let's have discussion during the break-out.

Re:Worker Bees (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120101)

But does this increase bee's productivity? Can we improve that productivity with 6-sigma? Let's have discussion during the break-out.

Listen kid, unless you want to give all your future status updates entirely by getting up on the conference room table and waggling your ass frantically [youtube.com] , you'll stop that analogy right now...

Re:Worker Bees (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120379)

Stop it? Why would I want to stop it?

Re:Worker Bees (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43123689)

It's all Lean these days, you know.

Ah, but why, doctor? (3, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120129)

Half-baked hypothesis time.

Caffeine is actually toxic to many arthropods, and may actually be a defence mechanism for plants. I propose that by being immune to it, bees could potentially make their honey less attractive to other insects; similarly, by putting it in their nectar, plants are defended against unwanted non-pollinators. The plant's mechanism would have evolved first, then grown exaggerated when bees made those variants more successful.

Re:Ah, but why, doctor? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120693)

Caffeine is actually toxic to many arthropods, and may actually be a defence mechanism for plants.

The article I read on this says exactly that. So the plants put out just enough to attract the pollinators.

Re:Ah, but why, doctor? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#43121481)

Alright! Time to start the Journal of Validated Armchair Hypotheses.

Re:Ah, but why, doctor? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43121619)

Ah, don't believe me, eh? [newscientist.com]

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.

Re:Ah, but why, doctor? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#43121683)

Oh no, I do. The abstract for the actual Science article says: "Caffeine concentrations in nectar did not exceed the bees' bitter taste threshold, implying that pollinators impose selection for nectar that is pharmacologically active but not repellent."

JAVA-H, the new online journal with all that buzz! (2)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year and a half ago | (#43121763)

re: Alright! Time to start the Journal of Validated Armchair Hypotheses.
:>)
JAVA-H, the new online journal with all that buzz!
.
Alright, stick an extra "A" in that journal title and I'll be itchin' to get published in JAVA-H:
- American? - too geographically limited? - J of American Validated Armchair Hypotheses
- Anthropomorphic? - relating all research to human endeavors? birds do it, bees do it, even educated humans do it...
- Axiomatically? - ooh, this one sounds even more scientific and even a bit mathematically, logically, philosophically tastier... I might stop here at this one... Journal of Axiomatically Validated Armchair Hypotheses.

Re:JAVA-H, the new online journal with all that bu (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#43123701)

Axiomatically works pretty well. "Analytically" might be more typical.

Got to get their buzz somehow. (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120251)

now we know

Caffeine is addictive (1)

bobthesungeek76036 (2697689) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120265)

Next!

and speed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43120359)

n/t

Or, they just like it. (1)

holmstar (1388267) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120589)

If you like something, you're more likely to remember it.

That's how I like my coffee (2)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about a year and a half ago | (#43120807)

Covered in bees!

Re:That's how I like my coffee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43122225)

Everything is better when you're covered in bees.

Re:That's how I like my coffee (1)

saveferrousoxide (2566033) | about a year and a half ago | (#43226169)

I sincerely hope that's an Eddie Izzard reference, because that was a great bit!

Caffeinistas (1)

NotFamous (827147) | about a year and a half ago | (#43121261)

The first one's free!

The real cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#43121275)

Turns out all those missing bees were at Starbucks drive ups demanding triple lattes with extra sugar.

I don't like you and you don't like me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43122679)

but I want honey and you want caffeine. I'll put the caffeine on this side of a lazy susan and you put the honey on that side. We spin the LS and both get what we want. Nice and simple, no one gets hurt!

Bees are very different from us (1)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | about a year and a half ago | (#43123561)

A relative of caffeine that is in chocolate that is so powerful to dogs that chocolate can kill dogs or at least make them very sick. Bees are invertebrates. Compared to bees dogs are just like us. So its pretty hard to correlate any effect of caffeine on bees to an effect on humans.

Evolution (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about a year and a half ago | (#43123577)

If cafeine gives an advantage, it is strange that evolution did not cause bees and other animals to synthetize it on their own. That suggests there is a drawback somewhere.

Re:Evolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43124899)

Your conclusion is invalid because you fail to fully take into account how evolution works.

Evolution requires the right mutations to occur before it can select for them. It may be that the mutations never occurred, or they occurred and the animal died for some other reason before reproducing. Possibly, the mutation to produce caffeine requires a number of other precursor mutations which the plants already had for other uses, but animals don't have.

Bacon (1)

certsoft (442059) | about a year and a half ago | (#43124285)

I'm still waiting for caffeinated bacon.
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