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Bees are buzzing with caffeine


When you tried your first sip of coffee, you were probably not a fan of the bitter, distinctive taste. Although most of us begin to like the taste of coffee, plants developed caffeine as a defence mechanism. The bitterness of caffeine serves as a deterrent against insects and pests like slugs and aphids that might otherwise decide to munch on a coffee tree’s beans. When the doses of caffeine are high enough, the plants are not just bitter for the pests, they are toxic. 

Un-bee-lievable caffeine benefits

Recent studies have shown that there is one insect, however, that has no problem refuelling with a little caffeine every day – bees. In one study published in 2015, researchers found that bees actually seemed to prefer nectar from plants that produced caffeine. The nectar was, in effect, caffeinated. When presented with caffeinated nectar versus nectar without any caffeine, the bees appeared to prefer the caffeinated option.

The study’s researchers think that plants may be adding caffeine to their nectar specifically to entice bees to their flowers and aid in pollination. They also found that bees tended to return more frequently to the caffeinated nectar sources and that they became less interested in looking for alternative nectar sources once they had found a caffeinated one.

However, the study’s researchers think that an increase of caffeine may result in the bees’ honey being less sweet. If more plants introduce caffeine to their nectar, the honey we consume may then diminish in sweetness.

Caffeine and honeybee memory

Another study published in 2013 found that caffeine also appeared to have an effect on honeybees’ memory and cognitive functioning. In this study, the researchers trained individual bees to stick out their tongues for rewards of odour and food. They tested the bees’ response to nectar that was laced with caffeine and nectar that was caffeine-free.

The researchers found that the bees created a memory association for the odour that was paired with caffeine. Additionally, the researchers found that when it came to caffeine, the bees expressed an impressive long-term memory. Compared with the caffeine-free nectar, three times as many bees remembered the odour that was associated with caffeine 24 hours later and twice as many bees remember the odour 72 hours later.

So, should we start lacing our “nectar” with caffeine? While there is a big difference between bees and people, more and more studies are showing that caffeine could have a substantial, positive impact on our memory, cognitive functioning and mood. There is more research to be done in the area; it looks like caffeine could have memory-boosting powers regardless of how small you are, or how many legs you have!

Are you curious about what else caffeine can do? We have a collection of blog articles on everything caffeine-related open to your perusal. Learn more about the powers of caffeine and read articles on everything from the effects of caffeine on your workout, skincare routine and daily mood.