Gum Blossom Intoxication


Chemists have analysed the nectar of diverse flowers and found a few surprises.

In some instances caffeine or nicotine are added to the menu. Who would have thought! Then again, if bees love spilled Coca-Cola, it is perhaps for more than the sweetness. Do the clients of floral restaurants seek these stimulants? Do flowers find it important to indulge such demands? One thing is clear: some special ingredients in nectar must be important, both for the pollinator and the flower.

There are cases in which the sugar in nectar ferments into alcohol to the point that it may intoxicate thirsty flower visitors. Bumble bees visiting such flowers behave like drunken sailors, bumping clumsily into flower parts, shaking loose the pollen from the anthers and thus getting an extra dose of pollen dusting. Moreover, they neglect their fastidious grooming and remain rather dusty all over for some time. Perhaps this is beneficial to the flower, which may end up getting more pollination under these circumstances. Nobody knows for sure but it is an interesting theory.

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