The idea that drinking red wine may provide health benefits – or possibly even extend your life – is an appealing thought for many people. Now, there may be added attraction. Researchers have found that when given resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, bees consume less food. 

Previous scientific studies on resveratrol show that it lengthens the lifespan of diverse organisms ranging from unicellular yeast to fruit flies and mice. Since bees are social animals like humans, a team of scientists from Arizona State University, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and Harvard Medical School, decided to test the effects of the chemical on the honey bee. 

In a series of experiments published in the journal Aging, the scientists tested the effects of resveratrol on the lifespan, learning ability, and food perception in honey bees.

Their research has confirmed that not only does this compound extend the lifespan of honey bees by 33 to 38 percent, it also changes the decisions that bees make about food by triggering a “moderation effect” when they eat. 

“For the first time, we conducted several tests on the effects of resveratrol by using the honey bee as a model,” said Brenda Rascón, an ASU alumnus and doctoral student with Gro Amdam, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. “We were able to confirm that under normal living conditions, resveratrol lengthened lifespan in honey bees.”

Since resveratrol is an antioxidant, researchers also questioned whether it would be capable of diminishing the damaging effects of “free radicals” – often released during stressful conditions. Free radicals are believed to cause damage to cells, and have an effect on how we age. Resveratrol did not, however, prove to extend lives of bees living under stressful conditions.

Yet, since the bees tested with the compound were living longer, researchers asked the next question: What’s happening that is causing them to live longer?