Bees on caffeine

by Archana Bottu, Robert Canuel, Briana Mancenido, and Nevil Parikh

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Bugs on Drugs

Psychoactive drugs incite some pretty crazy things in people. For example, numerous individuals consume high dosage of caffeine to get their temporary “boost of energy”. Native Americans like the Iroquois smoke tobacco in their peace pipes. The Huichol tribe likes drinking peyote to communicate with their gods. Moreover, scientists have directed their attention to the effects of these psychoactive drugs on animals: honey bees, dogs, and the like. These drugs had both beneficial and adverse effects to the normal behavior of these animals.

In the case of honeybees, caffeine helps increase their foraging and recruitment of other bees to obtain the food resource. Moreover, plants provide food reward to honeybees. In return, honey bees help to transfer pollen, which enhances plant reproduction. However, caffeine ends up decreasing their productivity. The caffeine that is found in the nectar of plants causes the bees to overestimate the quality and quantity of their foraging. As a result, food stores decrease due to the effects of caffeine-enhanced foraging. In this way, caffeine has turned this mutualistic relationship between plants and honeybees into a more exploitative relationship.

In a study done by Peter N. Witt of the North Carolina Department of Mental Health, drugs were tested on arachnids. Spiders were used to test how drugs (stimulants and depressants) impact their web making. Common drugs like LSD-25 and d-amphetamine, along with caffeine, were given to the spiders in small doses. Interestingly enough, the subsequent behavior of the spiders reflected typical behaviors of humans. For example, when a spider was given LSD-25 through sugar water, the web making was very relaxed and not completed as quickly. When given alcohol, the spiders actually fell off the web. But when given caffeine, the spiders began rushing their web making and it turned out to be irregular looking. Dr. Witt found the similarities of behaviors induced by drugs from spiders to humans are when given the same drugs .

The effect of LSD was even tested on elephants. Male elephants experience a natural phenomenon called musth where they run berserk and attack anything in their path, so researchers wanted to experimentally recreate this behavior. The researchers did so by administering doses of LSD that they thought wouldn’t elicit much of a reaction, but the elephant ended up dying less than two hours after being injected, showing that elephants are highly sensitive to the effects of LSD.

One last study showed the effects of cannabinoid eyedrop formulation on dogs and mice. Mice were shown to have a decrease in locomotor activity, and dogs were shown to have an increase in anxiety.

Certainly, drugs have a wide variety of fascinating effects on different organisms. From humans to mice, drugs have altered their activities and behavior. In spite of increasing their foraging activity, caffeine ends up decreasing the productivity of honeybees. Similarly, alcohol caused the bees to fall off their web, and LSD ended up killing the elephant. Also, drinking coffee might help individuals to obtain energy to finish their work, but high dosages can be harmful to their health. Therefore, before ordering your next coffee at Starbucks, think twice about the amount of caffeine that you are consuming!

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