How Do Bees and Other Animals Respond to the Solar Eclipse?

Next Monday, a total solar eclipse will pass over North America. A solar eclipse at this time of year is sure to bring new information on how living things, specifically bees, birds, and plants, respond to this daytime darkness. Those familiar with bees and their reliance on sunshine and heat wonder how the eclipse will affect them and if they will respond differently or peculiarly to this natural and uncommon event. Since 1932, scientists have observed bees, birds, and plants and recorded their observations during solar eclipses. What is fascinating is that many living things have been observed changing their behaviors during this event. The unique timing of this year's solar eclipse is expected to shed more light on this cause and effect due to the season in which the solar eclipse is occurring. Springtime is a busy time for bees and other pollinators, as well as a substantial growth period for plants and blooms.

What may not be surprising is that researchers and scientists have done much data collection and analysis on how the solar eclipse and similar events affect bees and other living things. Many have reported observations of unusual behavior in animals and plants. Signs of behavior changes in response to the solar eclipse include sap flow noticeably slower, spider destroying their own webs, and lizards closing their eyes; it is incredible how nature adapts to these types of events. The last solar eclipse, back in 2017, was an opportunity for science teams to study plant and animal behavior related to the eclipse, and the upcoming eclipse is sure to offer more insightful and interesting data for analysis.

Honeybees and the Patterns of a Solar Eclipse

Some scientists focus their research on honeybees and concentrate on reporting bee behavior during previous eclipses. Looking back to the 1932 solar eclipse, some scientists reported that bees just minutes before, bees seemed apprehensive and were coming back to the hive in more significant numbers, where very few left the hive. According to these reports, foraging trips were cut short, noting that honeybees were affected by the darkness associated with the solar eclipse. It appeared that in preparation for the darkness and solar eclipse, bees gave up foraging to hunker down in the hive.

Another thing noted by scientists in previous solar eclipses was the behavior of bees that did leave the hive before the total eclipse. Behaviors returning to the hive after exiting were much quicker than usual, as bees appeared to be more panicked than normal. Just because bees may know a solar eclipse is coming, it is not a regular enough occurrence for bees to be completely adapted to the event.

Birds Affected by Solar Eclipses

Bees are in good company with other pollinators, like birds. Bird behavior has also been documented since the eclipse of 1932. The most common report of birds and their behavior changes during a solar eclipse is that they go quiet in the darkness. If you have birds, you may cover them at night when it is time for them to sleep. A solar eclipse is like a big blanket, signaling to birds that it is time to be quiet. It may not be as apparent if you don't live anywhere where bird sounds are normal. However, if you live somewhere where the sounds of birds are a regular occurrence, the silence during a solar eclipse may be deafening. Although birds are known to respond to light cues, insects collectively are much more sensitive and responsive to changes in light.

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The Absence of the Sun Makes Some Species Vanish

An unusual nocturnal pattern was one of the most notable behaviors in insects, birds, and plants during the last eclipse. Many scientists noticed fireflies flashing during the day in the darkness of the eclipse. Those who study bats did not respond unusually to the eclipse beyond increased activity immediately following the event.

What makes 2024's solar eclipse so interesting is that it occurs in spring, which is a very busy time for bees, birds, and plants. The previous solar eclipse in 2017 was during the fall, so new observations and collected data will provide insight and hopefully help us better understand how a solar eclipse affects living things in nature. It may also be an opportunity for non-scientists to make our own observations on our pets, visitors to our garden, and our plants. If you have questions about bees or bee behavior or are concerned about a beehive in your area, contact D-Tek for the most knowledgeable beekeeping advice. D-Tek is a beekeeper-owned, full-service, humane live bee removal company serving San Diego and Orange County.

If you need help with something related to bees, you only need to make one call, which is to D-Tek 760-224-3040.