Many people have noticed that bees seem to become strangely quiet during a solar eclipse. In fact, a study published in the journal Current Biology found that bees stop buzzing altogether during the darkest moments of an eclipse.
The study’s authors, led by Dr. Lars Chittka from Queen Mary University of London, used tiny microphones to record the buzzing of bees in several locations across the United States during the 2017 solar eclipse. They found that the bees were active and noisy right up to the last moments before totality. However, as totality hit, the bees all went silent in unison.
“It was very dramatic,” Dr. Chittka told the BBC. “One moment the bees were buzzing away, and the next moment there was complete silence.”
The researchers believe that the bees’ sudden silence is due to a drop in light levels. Bees rely on sunlight to navigate and forage for food, so when the sun is blocked out, they become disoriented and confused.
“Bees are very sensitive to changes in light intensity,” Dr. Chittka said. “So it’s not surprising that they would stop buzzing when it’s suddenly pitch black.”
The study’s findings are a reminder of the delicate balance between bees and the environment. Even a small change in light levels can have a significant impact on these important pollinators.
In addition to the study by Dr. Chittka and his colleagues, there have been several other reports of bees becoming quiet during eclipses. In one case, a farmer in India reported that his bees all returned to their hives and stayed there until the eclipse was over.
While the exact reason why bees become quiet during eclipses is still not fully understood, the research suggests that it is due to a combination of factors, including a drop in light levels, a disruption of their internal clocks, and a sense of disorientation.
Regardless of the reason, it is clear that bees are sensitive to changes in their environment. As we continue to study bees, we may learn more about how they interact with the world around them and how we can better protect them.