Bees Prefer Nectar With Caffeine And Nicotine

bee

Many people feel they need a cigarette and a cup of coffee to start the day and now it turns out bees are no different. The honey-making insects prefer nectar with small amounts of nicotine and caffeine over plain nectar, researchers revealed. Flower nectar is primarily comprised of sugars, which provides energy for the potential pollinators. But the floral nectar of some plant species also includes small quantities of substances known to be toxic, such as caffeine and nicotine.The scientists from the University of Haifa examined whether the substances were intended to ‘entice’ bees or whether they were byproducts with no particular role.

‘This could be an evolutionary development intended, as in humans, to make the bee addicted,’ said lead researcher Professor Ido Izhaki.Nicotine is found naturally in floral nectar mostly in types of tobacco tree, while caffeine is found in citrus flowers – especially those of grapefruit.In order to examine whether bees prefer the nectar containing caffeine and nicotine, the researchers offered artificial nectar that comprised various natural sugar levels and various levels of caffeine and nicotine, alongside ‘clean’ nectar that comprised sugar alone.The caffeine and nicotine concentrations ranged from the natural levels in floral nectar up to much higher concentrations than found in nature.

The results showed that bees preferred the nectar with the highest levels of nicotine and caffeine.According to the researchers, it is difficult to determine for sure whether the addictive substances in the nectar became present in an evolutionary process in order to make pollination more efficient.It can be assumed, however, based on the results of the study, that the plants that survived natural selection are those that developed ‘correct’ levels of these addictive substances, enabling them to attract and not repel bees, thereby giving them a significant advantage over other plants.

The researchers emphasized that this study has proved a preference, not addiction, and they are currently examining whether the bees do indeed become addicted to nicotine and caffeine.

(source)

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