Honey bees get a real buzz from cocaine

Mon Dec 29, 2008 3:12am EST
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - An Australian scientist is doping up honey bees with cocaine to study how their brain reacts to the drug, and possibly find a way to stop addiction in humans.

The research found similarities between honey bees and humans, in that they are both are driven by rewards and both have their judgment altered by cocaine.

"This is the first time that it's been shown that cocaine has been rewarding to an insect," Andrew Barron, co-author of the report published this month in the Journal of Experimental Biology, told Reuters.

As part of a joint project between Australia's Macquarie University, the Australian National University and University of Illinois, Barren applied tiny doses of cocaine to the backs of bees before sending them out to hunt for food.

Normally when bees return from collecting pollen they perform a dance to communicate where the food was found and how good it tasted.

The cocaine-induced honey bees "waggledanced" much more enthusiastically than other bees, and seemed to experience the same addictive pleasures as humans, the report added.

Barron said the cocaine changed the bees' estimation of how successful its trip had been.

"What we found was that the honey bee responds to cocaine in very similar ways as humans, so cocaine changes the way the bees evaluate," he said.   Continued...

<p>An European Honey Bee is administrated a cocaine solution to its back by Doctor Andrew Barron at the Department of Brain, Behaviour and Evolution at Macquarie University in Sydney December 29, 2008. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne</p>