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How do bees react to a solar eclipse?

eclipseOn Friday 20 March 2015, there was a solar eclipse over parts of Africa and Western Europe. But how do bees react to the phenomenon? Previous studies give some clues.

UPDATE Friday 20 March 10am: With temperatures at 5C and leaden skies, the bees here in Hampshire, UK seemed completely oblivious to the solar eclipse. Only about three bees have poked their heads out so far this morning and none since the eclipse was at its maximum 40 minutes ago. Looks like the next good eclipse in the UK might be 2090

A Turkish journal reports that bees detected an eclipse 65 minutes before it happened and produced a unexpected buzzing noise. (Turkish Journal of Veterinary and Animal Sciences)

Social Ethology reported increased defensiveness by a colony: “during the peak phase of the eclipse, the number of the attacks raised by almost 5 times”.

Polarized Light and Polarization Vision in Animal Sciences wonders what might happen if bees run out of fuel during a total eclipse.

Indian rock bees became much more restless and active during an eclipse according to a 1950’s report by the Director of the Zoological Survey of India.

There’s even been a cartoon made about an eclipse affecting bees: Queen of the Solar Eclipse.

In this part of southern England, the eclipse will probably happen too early to spot any differences in foraging behaviour, but we’ll be watching closely!

Here is a good animation showing where and when the eclipse will happen.

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