Do bees get drunk on pollen? It’s a question that might seem absurd initially, but the answer is yes.
Bees can get drunk on fermented pollen, which can cause them to act erratically and even crash into things. Beekeepers use this behaviour to their advantage by placing fermented pollen in traps to catch bees.
But how exactly does this happen? When bees collect pollen, they mix it with nectar to create a substance called “bee bread.” If the nectar contains natural yeasts, it can ferment and turn into alcohol, like making beer or wine.
If the bees consume too much of this fermented bee bread, they can become intoxicated and lose their ability to fly straight. This can be dangerous for both the bees and their hives, as drunk bees may not be able to find their way back home.
Do Bees Get Drunk?
As you may have heard, bees can get drunk. But how does this happen, and what are the effects on the bees?
Bees can get drunk from consuming fermented nectar. This can happen when the nectar is left out in the open for too long or when the temperature is too high, causing the nectar to ferment and produce alcohol.
When bees drink this fermented nectar, they can become intoxicated and exhibit similar behaviours to humans with too much to drink.
Some of the effects of alcohol on bees include difficulty flying, problems with navigation, and increased aggression. In extreme cases, alcohol poisoning can occur, which can be fatal to the bee.
It’s important to note that while bees can get drunk, it’s not a common occurrence. Bees are typically very efficient at collecting nectar and pollen, and they have mechanisms in place to prevent them from consuming too much-fermented nectar.
Some species of bees have evolved to consume fermented nectar without becoming intoxicated. These bees have a higher tolerance for alcohol and can break it down more efficiently in their bodies.
The Science Behind Pollen and Alcohol
How Bees Collect Pollen
Bees collect pollen by visiting flowers and using tongues to lap up the nectar. As they do this, they also brush against the flower’s anthers covered in pollen. The pollen sticks to the bee’s hairy body and legs, allowing the bee to carry it back to the hive.
How Bees Process Pollen
Once back at the hive, bees use their mandibles to scrape the pollen off their bodies and pack it into pollen baskets on their legs. They then add enzymes to the pollen to break it down into a more digestible form. This processed pollen, known as bee bread, is then stored in the hive and used as a source of protein for the colony.
How Alcohol Affects Bees
While bees don’t intentionally seek out alcohol, they can inadvertently consume it when visiting flowers that have fermented nectar. Fermented nectar occurs when the natural sugars in the nectar are broken down by yeast, producing alcohol.
Alcohol can have a significant impact on bees. For example, it can impair their ability to fly and navigate, making it difficult for them to find their way back to the hive. Sometimes, it can cause them to become disoriented and fly in circles.
Furthermore, alcohol can also impact the social behaviour of bees. Studies have shown that bees exposed to alcohol are more likely to engage in aggressive behaviour and are more likely to be rejected by their peers.
The Effects of Pollen on Bees
Bees rely heavily on pollen as a source of protein and other essential nutrients. However, the effects of pollen on bees are not always positive. This section will discuss pollen’s positive and negative impacts on bees.
Pollen is a crucial source of protein for bees, which is essential for the growth and development of larvae. It also contains other essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Pollen also has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, which can help protect bees from diseases and oxidative stress.
Moreover, pollen diversity can have a positive effect on bee health. A study by the Agricultural Research Service scientists found that the pollen collected from different seasons can support the annual cycle of behaviours that sustain a honey bee colony.
Therefore, providing a variety of pollen sources can help ensure the health and longevity of bee colonies.
While pollen is essential for bees, it can also have adverse effects. Pollen can be contaminated with pesticides, which can be harmful to bees. Pesticides can weaken bees’ immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases and parasites.
Some pollen sources can be nutritionally deficient, leading to malnutrition and poor bee health. Monofloral pollen diets, composed of pollen from a single plant species, can be particularly problematic.
A study found that bees fed a poly floral blend lived longer than those fed monofloral pollens, except for the protein-richest monofloral pollen.