Tag Archive | fresh fruits

Getting bees hooked on flowers with nicotine

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While some researchers have been busy developing a possible vaccine to help humans beat their nicotine cravings, others have been getting bumblebees addicted to the stuff. But the experiment wasn’t just an exercise in getting the bees buzzed, it was an investigation into whether or not the drug could influence the insects’ ability to learn the color of flowers. Hint: It can.

They sure do love their bumblebees over at Queen Mary hooked on flowers. Researchers there have previously taught the pollinators how to push a ball around a playing field, and pull a string to get food rewards. In a further demonstration of how a creature with a brain about the size of a pin head can be trained to execute particular behaviors, researchers there used nicotine-laced nectar on artificial flowers to see if they could get the creatures to show a preference for one color over another.

So they laced blue flowers with a plain sugar solution and purple flowers with a sugar solution containing nicotine. They then set 60 different bees lose in their artificial garden to see how they behaved. Sure enough, the bees showed a clear preference for the nectar that was doped with nicotine in the purple flowers. Interestingly though, the bees were repelled by the nicotine-containing flowers if the concentration of the chemical was too high.

The researchers then reversed things: They laced the blue flowers with the nicotine solution and the purple flowers with the plain nectar. The bees continued to fixate on the purple flowers however, showing that they had associated the color with the reward, even if they could get a nicotine buzz by visiting the other flowers (pin-head-sized brain, remember?).

“Flowers typically reward pollinators ‘honestly’ with rewards such as sweet nectar, but nature’s trick box is endlessly resourceful, said professor Lars Chittka from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. “Some plant species gain an unfair advantage over competing species by spiking their nectar with addictive substances, such as nicotine in tobacco flowers.”

While the experiment might seem a bit obvious – of course bees would prefer a buzz-bringing solution over plain sugar water – the researchers say it opens the door to wide range of future studies analyzing ways in which plants might out compete each other for the attentions of insects that can spread their pollen.

For More Information: Michael Franco

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U.S. Department of Agriculture: Make school meals great again

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that school lunch regulations under the Obama administration would be less restricted.

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Perdue was joined by Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts at a Virginia elementary school‘s lunch for the announcement.

Sodium reduction and whole-grain requirements would be suspended. One percent fat flavored milk (chocolate milk, anyone?) would be allowed back into school cafeterias nationwide. These loosened restrictions are for federally funded school lunch programs.

Under current law, schools have to serve fresh fruits and vegetables, along with more whole grains.

“I wouldn’t be as big as I am today without chocolate milk,” Perdue said.

Critics of these changes say it sets back the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act from former First Lady Michelle Obama. She was widely known for her campaign against obesity.

Karina Knights, one of the few registered dieticians in the Sacramento area focused on children’s nutrition, said most health professionals supported Obama’s campaign, but acknowledges that schools and even parents had mixed reactions.

Perdue argues that the new administration is slowing down the process, but not going back on any health standards.

“This is not reducing the nutritional standards whatsoever,” Perdue said.

Instead, he said they’re meant to provide “regulatory flexibility” for the National School Lunch Program, a meal program that gives nutritionally balanced lunches to students for free or at a reduced cost.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, school food requirements cost school districts and states an additional $1.22 billion in 2015. Knight calls it an investment.

“At the end, it will cost less overall for the government,” said Knight. “[Because] they will spend less of any of the medical costs that come with obesity.”

These new rules are for the 2017-2018 school year.

The department is using the slogan ‘Make School Meals Great Again,” a play off President Trump‘s campaign slogan.

For More Information:- Frances Wang