The morning coffee, the 2 o’clock pick me up, the Diet Coke with dinner and the occasional late-night library Red Bull: most of us can’t function without at least one dose of caffeine a day.
We see the caffeine craze all across campus. Getting a seat at Kofenya is almost impossible, the mobile orders at the Starbucks Uptown take up an entire pong table, and don’t even think about getting in line at Shriver unless you have an hour to spare.
As college students, it gets us through our classes, our all-nighters, our hangovers; we rely on that caffeine buzz for everything, but we shouldn’t feel bad about it, because bees do too.
Yup. Remember “Bee Movie?” All those little guys who were flying planes, seducing florists, and keeping us alive, were doing it with a shot of nectar espresso.
In 2015, the University of Sussex published a report summarizing the relationship between bees and the caffeine concentration of nectar in flowers. They compared a control group to a group with a caffeinated solution to study the individual and colony level effects of caffeinated nectar on honeybees. Flowers aren’t just a honeybee’s grocery store, they’re also personal baristas.
The study shows that bees are more likely to visit and return to flowers with higher concentrations of caffeine in their nectar. Honeybees with increased doses of caffeine “significantly increase their foraging frequency, waggle dancing probability, and persistency and specificity.” Essentially, these caffeinated bees are more productive, persistent in their work and start to “waggle dance.”
Honeybees are better at “learning and remembering particular scents'' when under the influence of caffeine. They’re basically proving that a dose of caffeine can help you get through those flashcards with a breeze.
Plants have caught on to the caffeine craze; since bees frequent certain flowers for the caffeine content, the flowers lace their nectar with more caffeine. These bees return to the colony, “waggle dance” and tell their fellow foragers to return for more. The study showed that a colony collecting caffeinated resources sends out four times as many new forager bees compared to the control colony not receiving caffeine.
Senior year of high school, my mom told me my coffee dependency was going to start soon. My grandparents always have a couple cups a day and my parents were obsessed – apparently a coffee addiction runs in the family like blue eyes. It started with the afterschool $2 Dunkin’ Vanilla Iced Lattes (which were quickly abandoned once I was enlightened to the added sugar content). Next was a Keurig in my dorm room, a gift card to Kofenya and Starbucks trips on the seemingly unlimited dining dollars. I’m addicted. And, I felt bad about it.
But we need to give our caffeine guilt a rest. We’re just college students trying to make it through days filled with lectures, papers, clubs, projects and independence. It’s hard to get through the stress even with coffee, Red Bull, Bang or whatever gives you that extra kick.
Sure, it’s good to have self control and take that caffeine T-Break from time to time, but if it brings you the necessary joy and energy, I say there’s no reason to kick the habit completely. If the bees can have it, then we can too.
So next time you’re on your way to Kofenya for another latte, you’re really just visiting your favorite flower and ready to be more productive, alongside the bees – and I don’t see a single thing wrong with that.
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Keep enjoying the little things, even if that means riding a little caffeine buzz.