Cocaine affects foraging behaviour and biogenic amine modulated behavioural reflexes in honey bees

Eirik Sovik*, Naïla Even, Catherine W. Radford, Andrew B. Barron

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)
    24 Downloads (Pure)


    In humans and other mammals, drugs of abuse alter the function of biogenic amine pathways in the brain leading to the subjective experience of reward and euphoria. Biogenic amine pathways are involved in reward processing across diverse animal phyla, however whether cocaine acts on these neurochemical pathways to cause similar rewarding behavioural effects in animal phyla other than mammals is unclear. Previously, it has been shown that bees are more likely to dance (a signal of perceived reward) when returning from a sucrose feeder after cocaine treatment. Here we examined more broadly whether cocaine altered reward-related behaviour, and biogenic amine modulated behavioural responses in bees. Bees developed a preference for locations at which they received cocaine, and when foraging at low quality sucrose feeders increase their foraging rate in response to cocaine treatment. Cocaine also increased reflexive proboscis extension to sucrose, and sting extension to electric shock. Both of these simple reflexes are modulated by biogenic amines. This shows that systemic cocaine treatment alters behavioural responses that are modulated by biogenic amines in insects. Since insect reward responses involve both octopamine and dopamine signalling, we conclude that cocaine treatment altered diverse reward-related aspects of behaviour in bees. We discuss the implications of these results for understanding the ecology of cocaine as a plant defence compound. Our findings further validate the honey bee as a model systemfor understanding the behavioural impacts of cocaine, and potentially other drugs of abuse.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere662
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    Number of pages12
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Bibliographical note

    Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • Addiction
    • Cocaine
    • Dopamine
    • Drug reward
    • Honey bee
    • Invertebrate neuroscience
    • Reward systems


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