Creating A Buzz

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Getting insects drunk might be a great way to pass the time during mud season, but researchers at Ohio State University are doing it in the name of science. As part of a study on the effects of alcohol on social behavior, bees are fed ethanol-sucrose concoctions—meant to simulate an array of booze, from wine to grain alcohol. And then the scientists sit back and watch. "On the molecular level, the brains of honey bees and humans work the same, says study co-author Julie Mustard. "Many people get aggressive when they drink. We want to learn if chronic alcohol use makes the friendly honey bee more aggressive. Not surprisingly, wine-drunk bees spent less time grooming. And, like so many Australian lifties, bees that drank the Everclear-like potion spent most of the time on their backs—too drunk to get up. —Pieter van Noordenen

January 2005