The GREen Pod

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Welcome to the special series of The GREen Pod, made and hosted by the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) at the University of Greenwich. Tune into this series of podcasts to hear about some of the fascinating sustainability work being conducted by scientists at the NRI as they study insect behaviour, pest and disease control, climate change, gender inequality, social mobility, pollution and plastics, crop disease and food systems and waste.

Episode 1 - Discovering what gives bees their buzz and asking, what is the relationship between bees and caffeine? Listen in to find out!

Show Notes

Join host Linden Kemkaran as she speaks to Phil Stevenson, Professor of Plant Chemistry at the Natural Resources Institute, and Head of the Chemical Ecology Research Group at the University of Greenwich.
Phil describes how he and his team wondered, if humans’ performance and memory can be enhanced by caffeine, could the stimulant have the same effect on bees? 

By using an experiment called ‘conditioned learning’ (aka Pavlov’s dogs) Professor Stevenson provided bees with a food reward of liquid sugar while he wafted a plume of odour across their antennae so that they associated that smell with good food. Using caffeine helped this process and the bees made the association more quickly.
When the bees went out foraging the next day, they were much more able to remember a specific cue and a route that enabled them to gather good food sources, or nectar. Memory is a very important part of success for pollinating insects and the caffeine enabled the bees to remember things for much longer.

 Fun Fact: Caffeine is a fairly simple chemical that has evolved as a naturally occurring ‘defence’ chemical in many different crops, not just tea and coffee, but in legumes, citrus and ivy plants protecting them from insect herbivores. In high concentration it is bitter and sometimes toxic, but in low concentration in the nectar it is hardly noticeable, and it serves as an attractant and an aide memoir for pollinators. 

What is The GREen Pod?

Welcome to the University of Greenwich sustainability series of podcasts. Created by students and volunteers, with support from the Sustainability Team. Whether you’re looking to brush up on knowledge, learn something new or delve into a specific niche, there’s a show for you. The podcasts were launched during the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 to keep connections between the sustainable agenda and our students and staff.

Switch on, sit back and enjoy these discussions with peers and professionals alike.