Listening to the bees buzz can be a pleasure. Going through a total eclipse of the sun is awe inspiring. Just don’t expect both at the same time.
That’s the surprising finding of a recent study. University of Missouri researchers found during the 2017 North American eclipse that the bees just … stopped. According to CNet:
The researchers anticipated bee activity would drop as the sunlight dimmed, and would reach a minimum at totality.
“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,” lead researcher Candace Galen, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, said in a statement. “It was like ‘lights out’ at summer camp. That surprised us.”
According to the researchers’ report, “At most sites, no buzzes were detected during the 3-min window centered on totality, so duration was not sampled for that phase of the eclipse.”
Among those researchers recruited to observe the bees were elementary students. More than 400 participants, including students and teachers. They set up 16 listening stations along the path of totality from Oregon to Missouri, allowing them to observe bees’ behavior across various landscapes.
The children involved in the project made the experiment much more fun, according to Quartz.
The site reports:
Another delightful aspect to these results are the fourth- and fifth-grade volunteers’ cartoons about what they observed. The students took just a few liberties in their art, but they were quite good at counting buzzes in recordings: their buzz counts overlapped with the researchers’ at an impressive 91% rate.
And it sounds like the researchers are already gearing up for their next opportunity to collect data. “The next solar eclipse will come through Missouri in 2024,” they write. “We bee chasers, including some promising new recruits, will be ready.”