This week’s SCV Outdoor Report is a “Best of Wendy Langhan’s” report:
When it comes to studying for exams, I think most of us fall into one of two catagories: either we study together in groups or we study alone. And whether we’re together or alone, we often rely on caffeine to help keep us alert and focused while we cram as much useful information as we can into our brains.
But what if the stakes were higher than just passing an exam?
Suppose you are a honeybee? You need to forage for nectar and pollen in order to stay alive, so anything that helps you learn and remember where the best flowers are located would be useful, right?
Recently, scientists have discovered two mechanisms that help bees learn and remember.
The first mechanism involves watching and learning from others. A few weeks ago, scientists at the University of London reported on laboratory experiments where bees were able to observe other bees forage on artificial flowers. They concluded that “bees are smart enough to pick out the most attractive flowers by watching other bees and learning from their behaviour. By using simple logic, they see which coloured flowers are the most popular, and conclude that those of the same colour must also contain lots of energy-rich nectar.”
The second mechanism has to do with caffeine. Researchers at the University of Newcastle experimented with honeybees and found that “Bees…fed on caffeinated nectar were three times more likely to remember a flower’s scent than bees fed sugar alone.” Caffeine can be found in coffee plants (of course). But it can also be found the nectar of citrus flowers, including our local orange and lemon trees.
Dr. Wright goes on to explain how this “buzz-inducing reward” works: “Caffeine changes how neurons in the bee’s brain respond to learning and memory tasks…It causes cells to have a stronger reaction to sensory input, a change that also leads to long-term potentiation, a key mechanism underlying memory formation.”
I am a fan of anything that can increase my “long-term potentiation” and I see students studying together in Peet’s or Starbuck’s all the time. Perhaps they ought to think about marketing a caffeine-laced citrus beverage too? Hey…it works for bees.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, March 15, 8-10 am. Winter Flyers. Are there ways we can be more “friendly” to the birds around us? Learn about our region’s birds and how our behavior can sometimes affect theirs. Beginning birders are welcome. Binoculars optional. Meet at Towsley Canyon’s front parking lot. Click here for map and directions.
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org time and place.
Wednesday morning, February 26.
New trail maps available. If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has a website with trail maps of our local open spaces.
There’s also a new website for bicycle riders.
Ask Dr. Norm: Do you have questions about the flora, fauna, animals, rocks, etc. in our Santa Clarita Valley? Here’s a place for you to ask your questions. Dr. Norman Herr, Ph.D., is a professor of science and computer education at California State University, Northridge.
Tell Us About Your Hike: Here’s a new website where you can post pictures, provide feedback and make suggestions about the City of Santa Clarita’s trails and open spaces.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The SCV Outdoor Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
Or check out our Facebook page – L.A. Mountains