Many people around the world turn to caffeinated beverages to get a boost of energy in the morning or to help them focus on a difficult task. According to a new study from the University of Greenwich, caffeine offers similar benefits for bees, at least when it comes to getting their work done. Such caffeine solutions may help bees better pollinate crops.
Wild bees serve a vital role in the ecosystem; their ‘jobs’ are to pollinate crops, essentially serving at the front line of helping feed humans and wildlife. Dwindling wild bee numbers has led to the increased use of commercially raised and acquired bee colonies to help pollinate crops.
There’s a problem with this, however, which is that these bees tend to stick to their hives. When the bees do wander out, they’ll often gravitate toward nearby wildflowers, which doesn’t help farmers when it comes to crop pollination. Caffeine may be a solution to this problem, at least according to the new study from Greenwich.
The research involved taking these inexperienced bumblebees and ‘priming’ them to pollinate the desired crops using a caffeine cocktail that contained scents for the flowers they were supposed to target. Bees trained in this way were more interested in seeking out the flowers they were primed with compared to control bees.
The researchers say this caffeine cocktail could be used on commercial bees to prime them for the customer’s crops, improving crop yield while reducing the number of bees who gravitate toward wildflowers. This would leave the wildflower for wild bees, potentially helping farmers and the wider environment.