Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Something Eerie Happens to The Bees During a Total Solar Eclipse

During the spectacular event of a total solar eclipse, humans emerge blinking from their dens to enjoy the awe-inspiring show. But what of the bees? According to new research, they stop flying and go completely silent. Over the years, scientists have jumped at every opportunity to study animal behaviour during solar eclipses. We know that birds and diurnal reef fish bed down (while nocturnal fish start to emerge), orb-weaving spiders take down their webs, chimps gather to take a look, and cows carry on grazing like normal. But not much has been done to observe how bees behave. So researchers from the University of Missouri decided to take advantage of citizen science and the 21 August 2017 total solar eclipse that swept across America. Over 400 scientists, citizen scientists, and school students set up 16 acoustic monitoring stations in the path of totality, in Oregon, Idaho, and Missouri, to listen for and record any bee buzzing.The system, which had been recently field-tested by University of Missouri biologist Candace Galen to record pollination activity through listening for bee sounds, consisted of small USB microphones. These were hung in areas away from human foot traffic, with high levels of bee pollination activity, along with light and temperature sensors in some of the locations. When the show was over, the devices were returned to Galen's lab, where the buzz data gathered was matched up to the time of the eclipse. Although there was no way to tell which species of bees were buzzing, the most common in the areas were bumblebees (genus Bombus) or honey bees (Apis mellifera). "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," Galen said. "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." Across all 16 locations, just one single, lonely bee buzz was recorded during the eclipse's totality...MORE

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