Caffeine may help bumblebees find specific flowers that can help them pollinate efficiently

Photo by Pexels from Pixabay.

The effects of the climate crisis, habitat loss, and pesticide use are the main contributors to the decline in the number of wild pollinators. 

Because of this, growers have used “managed pollinators” like commercial bumblebees to aid in their crop pollination. However, these species are not as effective and productive as wild ones. Some bumblebees stay in their nest, while others are easily attracted to other flora in nearby areas.

One study shows that exposing bees to caffeine may aid farmers in getting their crops pollinated. The experiment assessed whether or not the bees can remember or be drawn into a specific scent that they usually smell in their nest as they forage in the fields for food.  

Researchers prepared a mixture of caffeine, sugar, plus the scent of the target flowers, which in this case, were strawberry flowers. They then sprayed the concoction into the bees’ nest. 

In a laboratory, they placed robotic flowers that were divided into two types: the first contained strawberry scent and the second had a soft and tangy smell of linalool (a compound that is not found in strawberry flowers). The latter served as distractor flowers. The purpose of this is to see what fragrant the bees would likely prefer. Would they choose the flowers evenly, or would they go for the flowers with a scent that they are more familiar with? 

Results reveal that the bees that were trained with the caffeine concoction in their nest were more interested in the target flowers than the other flowers with a different scent. 

Since the experiment was performed in a laboratory, the author of the study said that there are other factors that the bees might encounter in the field, such as weather conditions. She emphasized the need to conduct and pass a field trial before this could be applied in the real environment. 

If the results are the same, this can help farmers boost their crop production and earn more with the help of commercial bumblebees. Since some of them stray toward wildflowers instead of the strawberry blooms, training bees with caffeine will help them leave the wild food resources to the wild bees.

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