Last week on February 18, 2015, an Entomology Today article called “Caffeine and Nicotine May Protect Bees Against Intestinal Parasites” claimed that both of these substances helped reduce a common intestinal parasite called Crithidia bombi in bumble bees. However, it has been brought to our attention by the lead author that this is not true for caffeine (although it IS true for nicotine).
According to Leif Richardson, lead author of the article mentioned in the blog post, “We studied eight naturally occurring nectar chemicals, including caffeine, but only four of those chemicals had a statistically significant effect of lowering bee parasite load, and caffeine wasn’t one of them. When we considered data from all of the eight compounds together, we also saw an overall significant reduction in parasites, but when comparing the bees eating caffeine to a control group, we saw no effect.”
The misunderstanding came from a press release about the article, which seemed to imply that all eight — not just four — of the chemicals studied were effective at reducing the parasite load.
It is also important to point out that this research was conducted on bumble bees — not honey bees — and therefore has nothing at all to do with honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), as some media outlets have reported.