Typically, the nectar in the flower of a coffee plant contains almost as much caffeine as a cup of instant coffee. Just as black coffee has a strong bitter taste to us, high concentrations of caffeine are repellent to honeybees.
Dr Wright added: "This work helps us understand the basic mechanisms of how caffeine affects our brains. What we see in bees could explain why people prefer to drink coffee when studying."
Dr Julie Mustard, a contributor to the study from Arizona State University, explains further: "Although human and honeybee brains obviously have lots of differences, when you look at the level of cells, proteins and genes, human and bee brains function very similarly. Thus, we can use the honeybee to investigate how caffeine affects our own brains and behaviours."
This project was funded in part by the Insect Pollinators Initiative which supports projects aimed at researching the causes and consequences of threats to insect pollinators and to inform the development of appropriate mitigation strategies.
Population declines among bees have serious consequences for natural ecosystems and agriculture since bees are essential pollinators for many crops and wild flowering species. If declines are allowed to continue there is a risk to our natural biodiversity and on some crop production.
Professor Stevenson said: "Understanding how bees choose to forage and return to some flowers over others will help inform how landscapes could be better managed. Understanding a honeybee's habits and preferences could help find ways to reinvigorate the species to protect our farming industry and countryside."
|Contact: Karen Bidewell/ Sam Wood|