A Different Kind of Buzz
This entry was posted on March 6, 2010.
Addiction can be a lonely place. Whether we hide our vices or not -- stealing a secret cigarette while the wife isn't looking, sipping a sly cocktail at the end of the bar by ourselves or knocking back a few shots of espresso despite our doctor's orders -- it can sometimes feel isolating. But we should take some comfort in the fact that we are, in fact, not alone. At least, not in nature.
Joining the ranks of our friendly Russian drunk chimpanzee Rostov (who was recently sent to rehab to break his boozing and smoking ways) are our favorite little pollinators: Bees! A study conducted by the University of Haifa found that bees had a preference for nectar that included trace amounts of caffeine and/or nicotine in it. When we first ran across this story, we thought, 'of course, coffee cherry flowers would have caffeine in them' but we were surprised to learn that nicotine and caffeine chemicals are found in the flowers of many fruits -- even grapefruit (which has some of the highest concentration around)!
Scientists created synthetic nectar (which is comprised of sugars) that was neutral, had caffeine or had nicotine and then let the bees loose. They were able to then track the bees' preference for the nectar with the caffeine or nicotine over the neutral, sugar-only nectar. The assumption is that this evolutionary development on behalf of the flowers in question was to create an addictive relationship, thus spurring the bees to visit often and spread the pollen far and wide.
So there you have it -- the next time you're ruing your addiction to caffeine, know that you are in great company.
(And, while it's not often we wish we were a talented illustrator, this story should have been accompanied by an illustration of a greasy looking bee with a five o'clock shadow, a cup of coffee and a cigarette hanging out of its mouth. If you are a talented illustrator, there's a free bag of Velton's Bonsai Blend in it for you if you can draft something and send it our way.)