Bees Get “Buzzed” by Electricy and Caffine in Flowers

In response to my Bugging Out post a few days ago some folks have pointed me to some interesting reports on bee behavior.  It turns out that understanding the “birds and bees” is more complicated than we were taught by our parents (just as I suspected…)  Bees are using all of their senses when choosing which flowers to pollenate…and now scienctists are leaning that they also use electricity and caffeine!

Flowers get a Charge from Bees

The theory is that flowers that have a positive charge are more “attractive” to bees than those that don’t, and that positive charge is left behind by bees that have previously visited that flower.

“We think bumblebees are using this ability to perceive electrical fields to determine if flowers were recently visited by other bumblebees and are therefore worth visiting,” says Daniel Robert, a biologist at the University of Bristol, UK

According to Roberts, it’s been known that bees generate a positive body charge from flapping their wings and flying through the air, but they wanted to know if bees could pass on that electrical charge to the flower, and therefore attract future bees.

The team doing the testing first confirmed that the bees are positively charged (yes), then they confirmed that the positive charge is passed on to the flower (yes), finally they discovered that flowers that have a positive charge attract more bees than flowers that don’t!  Fascinating!  Since this is a new discovery it opens a whole new field of study when it comes to not only bees and pollination but bugs in general…pretty cool.

A flower's electric field (right, with associated electric potential on the left) helps bumblebees predict where to find the most nectar.Dominic Clarke / Ref. 1
A flower’s electric field (right, with associated electric potential on the left) helps bumblebees predict where to find the most nectar.
Dominic Clarke / Ref. 1

Bees get a Caffeine Buzz from Flowers

Did you know your local honey may contain caffeine?  Your local bees know!  It’s been found that caffeine found in the nectar of some plants, like citrus, can improve the bees memory, which helps them return to the most productive nectar producing flowers….as well as making the bee more active…creating “busier bees” if you will.

Listen to the March 8th Science Friday edition to learn more about the how electricity and caffeine influence bee behavior.

A honey bee, with pollen attached to its hind leg, pollinating a watermelon flower. Photo by Stephen Ausmus/ARS/USDA
A honey bee, with pollen attached to its hind leg, pollinating a watermelon flower.
Photo by Stephen Ausmus/ARS/USDA

2 thoughts on “Bees Get “Buzzed” by Electricy and Caffine in Flowers

    1. I look forward to learning from you! I’m new the topic of bees and honey and find it very interesting. I want to do whatever small things I can in my little corner of the world to benefit the wildlife around me.

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