The Loh Down On Science

Here's what gives insect GPS a boost!

There’s the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, then there’s the weird world of . . . caffeinated flowers?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying, that’s right.  Caffeine occurs naturally in the nectar of coffee flowers and citrus blossoms.  Bees visit those flowers and sip the sweet stuff.

Neuroscientists from Newcastle University wondered:  What effect does that caffeine have on bees?  So they got some bees and trained them, Pavlov-style, to connect the smell of a particular flower with the taste of special nectar.

You know:  Find the smell, get the tasty reward!

Some bees sipped caffeinated nectar.  The rest got decaf. 

Turns out, the bees that got caffeine also got a memory boost.  They remembered the training scent location and went back for refills.  The bees on decaf quickly forgot the sweet smell of success.

The scientists say the caffeine connection is a win-win:  Bees can find the nectar, the flowers get repeat business, nature's Starbucks cards continue to be punched in that great circle of life.

Talk about a literal caffeine . . . buzz. Or bzzzzzz....

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

Today, from 2-3 p.m. (PT) on the Loh Down on Science blog, join Sandra as she chats with humorist Henry Alford about the science of laughter!

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Follow us on Twitter!


blog comments powered by Disqus