Sugar gives bees a happy buzz, study finds

Sugar gives bees a happy buzz, study finds
Photo of a bee drinking a droplet of sugar water. Credit: Clint J Perry

An unexpected sugary snack can give bees a little buzz and appears to lift their mood, even making them optimistic, according to research Thursday that suggests pollinators have feelings, too.

Since emotions are subjective and difficult to measure—particularly in animals—researchers looked at how ' behavior changed after they were given a sip of sucrose solution.

They found that bees learned to fly faster to a container with a sugary drink inside than to one with just water.

"Bees given a 60 percent sucrose reward to induce a positive affective state flew faster to the cylinder than non-rewarded bees," said the study in the journal Science, led by Clint Perry at the University of London.

"Much like happy people are more likely to make optimistic judgments about ambiguous situations."

The sugar-buzzed bees also appeared to recover faster from a scare—when they were briefly caught and released, as if attacked by a predator spider—than bees that had not indulged in the sweet treat.

"Sweet food can increase positive emotions and improve negative mood in human adults, and reduce crying and grimacing of newborns in response to aversive stimuli," said the study.

"If drinking an unexpected sucrose solution caused a positive emotion–like state in bees, we predicted that, after consumption, bees' aversive reaction to the 'predator' would be attenuated," it added.

"Indeed, bees that consumed sucrose solution before the 'attack' took less time to reinitiate foraging."

Researchers said their study lends support to "the notion that invertebrates have states that fit the criteria defining emotion."

But much remains to be understood about what bees may be feeling, and how it matters to their survival.

"Whether 'emotion-like' states in insects are accompanied by emotional feelings remains unanswered," said a related commentary by Michael Mendl and Elizabeth Paul.

"But the possibility of insect consciousness is now the topic of exciting new theories and vigorous debate."


Explore further

Bees found to use pollens' taste to determine which flowers to visit

More information: C. J. Perry et al. Unexpected rewards induce dopamine-dependent positive emotion-like state changes in bumblebees, Science (2016). DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf4454
Journal information: Science

© 2016 AFP

Citation: Sugar gives bees a happy buzz, study finds (2016, September 29) retrieved 24 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-09-sugar-bees-happy.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
247 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Sep 29, 2016
No wonder 70% of murikans are obese.

Sep 30, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Sep 30, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Oct 02, 2016
The wonders of natural selection, aka evolution.

Oct 02, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Oct 03, 2016
In America, they pump their children full of sugar and when they start buzzing like bees, they feed them drugs to calm them down.

Oct 03, 2016
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more