Tuesday, 23 Dec, 2008 Science

Bees Behave Like Humans When Exposed to Cocaine


Previously scientists discovered that bees resemble human beings in several aspects, including the fact that they are social and deeply house-proud. Recently scientists unveiled another similarity between us and the bees, i.e. bees show the same behavior when exposed to cocaine.

Researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, discovered that after being given a dose of cocaine, bees threw themselves into odd active dance routines and felt obliged to "talk" to their nest companions. Besides, they went through withdrawals when running out of drugs. The study involved the analysis of bees' behavior after they came back from a journey looking for food.

"When foraging honeybees discover a particularly good source of pollen or nectar, they fly back to the hive and perform a symbolic dance for their nest mates," said Dr Andrew Barron. He said that the symbolic dance represents a specialized type of communication through which bees inform their nest mates about the rewards they were able to find.

Scientists dabbed low doses of the drug on the backs of the bees before the insects went out. They noticed that after returning from their trip, bees were more likely to get involved in a dance for their nest companions. They particularly performed dynamic routines, providing details about the location of food. After observing the dance language of the bees, the team of researchers tried to understand what was happening in the brain of those bees. They found that the drug made bees more passionate communicators. Additional enthusiasm helped the bees better communicate with their nest mates. The research and its results were published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

An additional step in Baron's research was to analyze the behavior of bees after the removal of the drug. Scientist gave the bees a week of cocaine diet and then they tested the ability of these insects to make a distinction between two different smells. After consuming cocaine for a week, the bees were unable to distinguish the smells, reported The Guardian. "Their performance absolutely crashed," noted Baron.

It is worth mentioning that this is the first study to show that bees are affected by cocaine the same way humans are. However, the addiction in humans is much more complicated, but Baron believes that bees may help discover some features of the phenomenon. He hopes to find, for example, which genes are turned on when the brain of a bee goes cold turkey.

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