Researchers and hundreds of elementary school students set out to discover what bees do during solar eclipses. They set up 16 acoustic monitoring stations, in the path of totality, in Oregon, Idaho, and Missouri to listen for bees.
On August 21, 2017, the team used the system of tiny microphones, to record the buzzing of the bees through all stages of the eclipse. The bees were active up to the last moments before totality, the point when the moon blocks all direct sunlight. The bees’ buzzes lasted longer as it gradually got darker approaching the total solar eclipse. When totality hit, the bees went silent in complete unison. The team discovered that all bees stopped flying at the point of totality. During Totality over the 16 stations, only one buzz from one bee was recorded.
The immediate and complete nature of the silence surprised many who were part of the new study published by the Entomological Society of America. The team had two student groups in Oregon, one in Idaho, and several in Missouri. They all recorded the bees with USB microphones and sent in the audio files for the researchers at the University.
There’s another cross-continental eclipse in 2024 and researchers plan to set up mics inside hives and among flowers to test anecdotal evidence from the 1930s that suggests bees return to their hives during totality.
Image Adapted From: "Solar Eclipse 26 January 2009 @ South Jakarta, Indonesia" by Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño is licensed under CC BY 2.0 and "Bee" by Andrew Malone is licensed under CC BY 2.