Sunday, 21 May 2017

Nicotine enhances bees' activity




Date: May 16, 2017
Source: Queen Mary University of London

Nicotine-laced nectar can speed up a bumblebee's ability to learn flower colours, according to scientists at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

The researchers used artificial flowers in a tightly-monitored flight arena in the laboratory to mimic how flowering plants use animals as pollen carriers and reward pollinators with sugars found in floral nectar.

The team sought to understand whether nicotine plays a role in the bees' ability to learn flower colours. In an experiment, 60 bees had to choose between flowers that had a sugar solution and another that was laced with nicotine -- differentiated by the colour of the flower.

The bees learned about the flowers with reward (ones that contained the sugar solution) faster if it had been laced with nicotine, even at very low concentrations. The bees maintained a predisposition for the flower even after the reward had been removed, resulting in 'addiction-like' behaviour from the bee.

Professor Lars Chittka from QMUL's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: "Flowers typically reward pollinators 'honestly' with rewards such as sweet nectar, but nature's trick box is endlessly resourceful: some plant species gain an unfair advantage over competing species by spiking their nectar with addictive substances, such as nicotine in tobacco flowers.

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