Researchers have known for some time that caffeine can improve a bee’s memory, and that some plants use low levels of caffeine in their nectar to entice bees to their flowers. Now, BBSRC-funded researchers led by Professor Philip Stevenson at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich are using this knowledge to help strawberry growers pollinate their crops more effectively.
Poor pollination leads to misshapen fruit that still needs to be harvested, imposing extra costs on growers. To combat this, strawberry growers rely on commercially bought bee colonies as well as wild pollinators to maximise pollination, but even that isn’t always sufficient.
By exposing bees to caffeinated nectar alongside the scent of strawberry flowers, the researchers improved the commercial bees’ pollination efficiency. The team worked with researchers at NIAB-EMR and commercial partners including UK berry growers Berry Gardens and bumblebee supplier BioBest on the project.