Spectators could not stop buzzing and cheering during the event of a total solar eclipse last August in the United States. However, the bees remained silent and had a different reaction. The bees did not even fly during the entire event, as per a new study which appears in the journal Annals of the Entomological Society of America.
Even though past studies have determined animal behaviour during the event of total solar eclipses, only a few of them have traced insects. Moreover, bees have never been a part of the observation. For this reason, the scientists from the University of Missouri bought elementary school students and citizen scientists and set up 16 acoustic monitoring stations in Missouri, Idaho and Oregon to record the buzzing of bees during last 21 August total solar eclipse.
The system had been field tested recently by Candace Galen, a biologist at the University of Missouri, just before the eclipse.
The devices comprised of tiny USB microphones to listen to the buzzing sounds of the bee by collecting information about their pollination activity. After the eclipse passed by, the devices were returned to Galen’s lab where the collected data was analyzed. Although it was not easy to tell which bee species were buzzing, it is believed that the most common ones were the honey bees (Apis mellifera) or bumblebees (genus Bombus).
In all the 16 acoustic locations, just a lonely, single bee buzzing sound was collected during the totality of the eclipse. But what the researchers heard just before and after eclipse’s totality, when the moon blocked the sun partially and dimmed sunlight was quite in quite fascinating. The bees stayed completely unaffected by the gradually dimming sunlight, stopped flying and making the buzzing sound. They resumed back to their normal activity when the eclipse got over.
Notably, the next total solar eclipse in American is expected to take place on April 8, 2024, where the researchers hope to observe more about bees’ behaviour.