A team of researchers led by Dr. Sarah Arnold, behavioral entomologist at Greenwich University in southeast London, showed that feeding bumblebees with alkaloid while exposing them to a target floral odor encourages them to seek out that scent when they leave the nest, hence the benefit for that line of the economy.
Dr. Arnold and her team created three groups of insects without having previously found any flower or aroma: one drank caffeinated sugar water and a burst of strawberry flower scent; the second one received pure water with sugar and smell, and the third one only pure water with sugar.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, found bumblebees fed caffeinated were better at remembering the smell of a specific flower with nectar inside. It has big implications for agriculture, including strawberry growers.
In comparison, 60% given the strawberry odor and sugar but without caffeine, while those without alkaloid or prep scent had fewer visits in half the time, an expected result because they have never done before, Dr. Arnold stated.
Other studies showed that those insects exposed to certain odor while getting a buzz from caffeine stick out their tongues in response for longer periods of time, but they weren’t able to freely choose which flowers to visit.
Whatever industrial application the new findings may lead to, according to Jessamyn Manson, ecologist at the University of Virginia, United States, the use of caffeine in these experiments as a stimulant is particularly revealing.
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