Caffeine’s for the bees

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Caffeine improves the memory of bees who visit coffee plants, according to research published recently in Science (published March 7). Researchers found that caffeinated nectar makes honeybees remember odors better, and caffeine was linked to the neurons associated with the bees’ long-term memory. Science blog post on the research suggests there’s still a lot we don’t know about bees and caffeine:

Now, [researchers] 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.

Before this research, people had believed that plants produce caffeine as a kind of defense mechanism against predators, according to The Hindu:

Note that the raw bean or leaf is bitter to taste, and the animal would shy away, leaving the plant alone to grow and flourish.

So, some animals despise the taste of the caffeine in plants’ leaves and beans, but honeybees like the caffeine and might even become addicted. Fascinating, no?