Nav: Home

A buzz-worthy surprise during the total solar eclipse

November 08, 2018

On August 21, 2017, at 16 points along the path of last year's total solar eclipse, tiny microphones--each about the size of a USB flash drive--captured a unique biological phenomenon. As Earth fell into complete darkness, the bees stopped buzzing, according to researchers at the University of Missouri.

"Getting dark in the middle of the day is not something that happens in a bee's normal life." said Candace Galen, professor of biological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science and lead researcher on the study. "It's a behavioral miscue. Here darkness is a cue for night, that a bee is familiar with, but it's coming at the wrong time of the day. Did they use it as a cue or not, even if it is completely out of context? What we found is yes, they do."

Millions of Americans paused that August afternoon to watch the eclipse. As it passed overhead, MU researchers buzzed into action assisted by approximately 400 people--scientists, volunteers and elementary school students and teachers in Missouri, Idaho and Oregon, including over 200 elementary school students and teachers from Columbia Public Schools in Missouri--gathering audio data on the behavior of bees. At each of the 16 locations, the microphones were placed near bee-pollinated flowers and away from human-generated traffic.

Previous research conducted on bee behavior notes that bees commonly fly slower at dusk and return to their colonies at night. In this study, researchers found that while bees completely stopped buzzing during totality, they continued to fly during the periods of reduced light that occur in the phases of a partial eclipse.

"It's a soundscape," Galen said. "What we have is a buzz that is longer. Either the bees were flying more slowly or making longer flights."
-end-
The study, "Pollination on the Dark Side: Acoustic Monitoring Reveals Impacts of a Total Solar Eclipse on Flight Behavior and Activity Schedule of Foraging Bees," was recently published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America. The work was supported by a Julena Steinholder Duncombe Mini-Grant from the American Astronomical Society. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.

Samuel Holden and Michael Axe, undergraduate students at the University of Missouri, and Zachary Miller, Austin Lynn, Levi Storks, Eddie Ramirez, and Emilia Asante, graduate students at the University of Missouri, coauthored the study. Other collaborators include David Heise, associate professor of science, technology and mathematics at Lincoln University; Susan Kephart, professor of biology, and Jim Kephart, director of information services, at Willamette University in Oregon.

University of Missouri-Columbia

Related Bees Articles:

To buzz or to scrabble? To foraging bees, that's the question
A team of UA biologists has discovered that for a hard-working bumblebee, foraging for pollen versus nectar is very different -- and tougher than you might think.
Nicotine enhances bees' activity
Nicotine-laced nectar can speed up a bumblebee's ability to learn flower colors, according to scientists at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).
Scientists say agriculture is good for honey bees
Scientists with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture evaluated the impacts of row-crop agriculture, including the traditional use of pesticides, on honey bee health.
Honey bees have sharper eyesight than we thought
Research conducted at the University of Adelaide has discovered that bees have much better vision than was previously known, offering new insights into the lives of honey bees, and new opportunities for translating this knowledge into fields such as robot vision.
Overuse of antibiotics brings risks for bees -- and for us
Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have found that honeybees treated with a common antibiotic were half as likely to survive the week after treatment compared with a group of untreated bees, a finding that may have health implications for bees and people alike.
Flies and bees act like plant cultivators
Pollinator insects accelerate plant evolution, but a plant changes in different ways depending on the pollinator.
Bees can learn to use a tool by observing others
Simply by watching other bees, bumblebees can learn to use a novel tool to obtain a reward, a new study reveals.
Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
Attacks by robber bees result in the evolution of larger guard bees and thus promote the division of labor in the hive.
Save the bees? There's an app for that
A new mobile app can calculate the crop productivity and pollination benefits of supporting endangered bees.
Sweat bees on hot chillies: Native bees thrive in traditional farming, securing good yield
Farming doesn't always have to be harmful to bees: Even though farmers on the Mexican peninsula of Yucatan traditionally slash-and-burn forest to create small fields, this practice can be beneficial to sweat bees by creating attractive habitats.

Related Bees Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".