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Silent Bees

Bees can learn how to assess numerical value. (Danny Perez Photography, Flickr)

A fascinating thing happened during the solar eclipse in August 2017. A new study reveals that as the moon slowly crossed the sun, the light dimmed and the temperature cooled, the bees just went along like normal. Once the darkness of the totality hit, however, there was a change.

All of a sudden, the bees stopped flying. When the moon began to move away, the bees started buzzing again. Scientists think that it was the change in light intensity that affected flight activity.

Citizen Scientists

The study, published in October 2018 in Annals of the Entomological Soceity of America, was actually one of the first formal studies of this topic. Although researchers did the analysis, it was citizen scientists-and especially hundreds of schoolkids-responsible for the data. They set out small microphones in 11 flower patches in Oregon, Idaho and Missouri and recorded the bees‘ sounds.

Unfortunately, the study was not able to determine what kinds of bees went quiet. But Candace Galen, one of the authors of the study, speculated that there were likely many bumblebees recorded in Missouri, and more sensitive, smaller Megachile bees in Oregon and Idaho.

As scientists continue to explore how other species experience eclipses, bees could provide some fascinating information.

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