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Bees can experience drug addiction, new research shows

December 29, 2008 |  9:00 pm

Bees can become addicted to cocaine Bees, not unlike some starlets we can think of, can become addicted to cocaine, according to a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

The Times' Thomas H. Maugh II reports:

Researchers led by entomologist Andrew Barron of Macquarie University in Sydney trained a hive of bees to forage at a nearby supply of sugar water. Then they applied minute quantities of cocaine to the backs of foragers.

He and neuroscientist Gene Robinson of the University of Illinois found that the bees' dance remained tightly controlled, providing accurate directions to the food source. But the insects now demonstrated an unusually strong response to food, acting as though a weak solution of sugar water was a much better food source and communicating their findings much more enthusiastically to hive-mates.

The Australian bees developed a tolerance to the drug and even experienced withdrawal symptoms when deprived of it -- their abilities to learn new tasks (like distinguishing between scents) was severely impaired, said the research team.

So will honeybee rehab become a hot new trend -- the flea circus of the 21st century?  Only time will tell.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times

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