Quantcast
Animals
Honey bees. Courtney Collison / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Bees Went Totally Silent During Total Solar Eclipse

Last year's total solar eclipse spurred millions of people to enjoy the great outdoors. For the bees, however, it was time for a break.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at the University of Missouri and its 400-member team of citizen scientists set up 16 acoustic monitoring stations in the path of totality in Oregon, Idaho and Missouri to listen to bee activity. To the researchers' surprise, the insects were active during the partial-eclipse phases, but abruptly stopped flying during totality. A sole buzz was heard in all 16 monitoring locations.


"We anticipated, based on the smattering of reports in the literature, that bee activity would drop as light dimmed during the eclipse and would reach a minimum at totality," Candace Galen, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri and lead researcher on the study, said in a press release. "But, we had not expected that the change would be so abrupt, that bees would continue flying up until totality and only then stop, completely. It was like 'lights out' at summer camp! That surprised us."

The findings were consistent across the country. The Aug. 21, 2017 spectacle was particularly special because it crossed the entire nation, starting from Oregon's coast and exiting out of South Carolina.

The results were published Wednesday in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

"It seemed like the perfect fit," Galen explained. "The tiny microphones and temperature sensors could be placed near flowers hours before the eclipse, leaving us free to put on our fancy glasses and enjoy the show."

The recordings were not able to distinguish between different bee species, however observers said most bees monitored were bumblebees or honey bees.

Commenting on the study, Blue Pearl Farms—a blueberry farm and honey harvester located in right in the path of totality in McClellanville, South Carolina—wrote on Facebook that "no bees flew here either."

There are some accounts of animals displaying unusual behavior during a solar eclipse, but no formal study has ever specifically looked at bees.

"It seemed as if everyone and their dog was asking me what animals would do during a total eclipse," Galen said in the press release.

It's not exactly clear why the bees stopped buzzing. However, since bees tend to fly more slowly at dusk as they return to their colonies at night, this could suggest that the critters in the study were similarly responding to a drop in sunlight.

The researchers said that the eclipse offers evidence on how bees respond to unexpected environmental cues.

"The eclipse gave us an opportunity to ask whether the novel environmental context—mid-day, open skies—would alter the bees' behavioral response to dim light and darkness," Galen said in the press release. "As we found, complete darkness elicits the same behavior in bees, regardless of timing or context. And that's new information about bee cognition."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Oceans
In the barrier reef in Belize a cave in formed a great blue hole. Lomingen / iStock / Getty Images Plus

LIVE Interview: Plastic Found in Great Blue Hole in Belize

2018 was the year for plastic pollution awareness. One good aspect of the plastic crisis is the fact that we can solve it. Getting involved with solutions is an easy way to have our voices heard globally.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Kingborough Council

Tasmania Builds Road From Single-Use Plastics, Glass and Printer Toner

A local government in Tasmania found a clever way to recycle single-use plastics and other landfill-bound waste by building a new road.

The 500-meter (1,640-foot) stretch outside the city of Hobart is made of approximately 173,600 plastic bags and packaging, as well as 82,500 glass bottle equivalents diverted from landfill, the Kingborough council announced Tuesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Alchemy Goods / Bambaw / LuminAID

EcoWatch's Favorite Green Gifts for the Holidays

The holidays are coming and if you're stuck on what to give your eco-conscious friend or relative, we've got you covered. At EcoWatch, we're big fans of homemade presents, products that actually help the planet, and putting our dollars towards a good cause. This year, our staff has rounded up some of the best green gifts we've given and received, as well as the items on our wish list.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Senate Approves Farm Bill

By Dan Nosowitz

The Farm Bill, which is supposed to be passed about every five years but which has for the past few been substantially delayed, finally saw the Senate floor Thursday, where it passed by a vote of 87 to 13.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
Mtwrighter / CC BY-SA 4.0

Most Diverse Butterfly Center in the U.S. to be Bulldozed for Trump’s Border Wall

The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas is the most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the U.S. Some 200 species of butterflies find a home there each year, including the Mexican bluewing, the black swallowtail and the increasingly imperiled monarch. And, as soon as February, almost 70 percent of it could be lost to President Donald Trump's border wall, The Guardian reported Thursday.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
McAfee Knob along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Appalachian Trail Conservancy / NPS

Court Tosses Controversial Pipeline Permits, Rules Forest Service Failed to ‘Speak for the Trees’

The Lorax would not approve of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—the controversial pipeline intended to carry fracked natural gas through 600 miles in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. That's the sentiment behind a ruling by a Virginia appeals court Thursday tossing out a U.S. Forest Service permit for the pipeline to cross 21 miles of national forest in Virginia, including a part of the Appalachian Trail, The News & Observer reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Business
The Overpass Light Brigade at Bascom Hall in Madison, Wisconsin on April 4, 2014. depthandtime / Flickr

Global Divestment Movement Celebrates Milestone: 1,000 Institutions With Nearly $8 Trillion in Assets Have Vowed to Ditch Fossil Fuels

By Jake Johnson

While the COP24 climate talks are at risk of ending without a concrete plan of action thanks in large part to the Trump administration's commitment to a dirty energy agenda, environmental groups on Thursday celebrated a major milestone in the global movement to take down the fossil fuel industry after the number of public and private institutions that have vowed to divest from oil, gas and coal companies surpassed 1,000.

Keep reading... Show less
Food

Slaughter-Free Lab Grown Steak Cast As Ethically Friendly Alternative

Lab-grown meat—also known as cultured meat or in vitro meat—is often cast as an environmentally and ethically friendly alternative to raising traditional livestock.

These slaughter-free products aren't available on the market yet, but the dream is so enticing that Bill Gates, Richard Branson and even Tyson Foods—one of the country's largest meat companies—have made big bets on it.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!