Eclipse affects bees also, makes them go on silent mode, stop flying
Science & Technology

Eclipse affects bees also, makes them go on silent mode, stop flying

Washington, Oct 14: Researchers at the University of Missouri have come up with an interesting discovery, which says that during a total eclipse, bees also take a break from their daily routines and stop flying.

The results, published October 10 in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America, were clear and consistent at locations across the country: Bees stopped flying during the period of total solar eclipse.

According to Candace Galen, PhD, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri and lead researcher on the study, "We anticipated, based on the smattering of reports in the literature, that bee activity would drop as light dimmed during the eclipse and reach a minimum at totality.

"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," Dr Galen told Science Daily.

Supported by a grant from the American Astronomical Society, the project engaged more than 400 participants -- including scientists, members of the public, and elementary school teachers and students -- in setting up 16 monitoring stations in the path of totality in Oregon, Idaho, and Missouri.

The data showed that bees remained active during the partial-eclipse phases both before and after totality, but they essentially ceased flying during the period of totality.

(Just one buzz was recorded during totality in all of the 16 monitoring locations.) However, shortly before and after totality, bee flights tended to be longer in duration than at times early in the pre-totality phase and late in post-totality.

Galen and colleagues interpret these longer flight durations as an indicator of a slower flight under reduced light or possibly as the bees returning to their nests.

Bees commonly fly more slowly at dusk and return to their colonies at night, and so the same behavior triggered by a solar eclipse offers evidence about how they respond to environmental cues when those cues occur unexpectedly.

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

"The total solar eclipse was a complete crowd-pleaser, and it was great fun to hitch bee research to its tidal wave of enthusiasm," he added. (UNI)