Last Year Total Solar Eclipse make Bees go to Silent Mode

Buzzkill: Why bees fell silent during the 2017 solar eclipse

The much-hyped total solar eclipse that streaked across the United States in 2017 changed how a lot of us behaved for a very short period of time.

With the help of more than 400 volunteers, including elementary students and teachers, scientists placed small microphones in bee-pollinated areas along the path of totality in Missouri, Oregon and Idaho.

According to Candace Galen, who is Ph.D., Professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri as well as the lead researcher in this study said that they have anticipated that the activity of the bees will drop when the light gets dimmed during the eclipse.

They set up microphones on plants such as sunflowers, thistle and goldenbush to catch their reaction.

"During 3-min clips at totality, the 16 microphones hidden among flowers in geographically isolated regions captured a soundtrack comprised nearly entirely of silence", the study read. It was like "lights out" at summer camp!

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According to the National Geographic, several historical accounts have also noted animals' peculiar behaviour, but research is hard to conduct because the events are rare. However, few formal studies had ever examined the behavior of insects, specifically, during a solar eclipse, and none had looked at bees. In some of the locations, light and temperature data were also captured. The recordings didn't allow for differentiation between bee species, but participant observations indicated most bees monitored were bumble bees (genus Bombus) or honey bees (Apis mellifera). It is seen that the bees remain active during the partial eclipse, but when the total eclipse occurs, the buzzing sound suddenly stops. This may suggest the bees were flying more slowly. The research team believed that bees will move slower as they do when the Sun begins to set in the sky each day before chilling out for the night in their hives.

"As we found, complete darkness elicits the same behavior in bees, regardless of timing or context. And that's new information about bee cognition", Galen explained.

Some even called the event the "Great American Eclipse". Galen says her team is working to enhance its audio-analysis software to distinguish the flights that foraging bees make when they leave or return to their colonies. And it turns out bees acted unusually, too.

It likely won't be hard to find willing citizen scientists and students to help out again. Researchers studied how bees would react to the eclipse by choosing 11 locations in the US that fell in the eclipse's path of totality.


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