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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."
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By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.