I am requesting help organizing an event where beekeepers across the United States can video or record there observations on honeybee behavior during the August 2017 Solar Eclipse, and share with others not fortunate enough to be in the path. Please read the charter and join the group if interested. If anyone wants to help manage the event, we can change the charter any way you wish to make if more fun for everyone, its a work in progress. Volunteers needed.
Throughout history, observations on the behavior of honeybees during solar eclipses have been written down by observant beekeepers. This group was created:
1. To provide a place where beekeepers in the in the United States who are in path of the solar eclipse can record observations of their bees behavior during the eclipse, weather written or by video and share them with others.
2. To share ideas with other beekeepers on what observations should also be noted, i.e. hive entrance activity, flower reaction, wildlife and farm animal behavior etc.
3. To publicize this event so we may have beekeepers all across the United States sharing video to this group so others not fortunate enough to be in the path of the solar eclipse can experience this wonderful event.
4. And most importantly, have fun and meet friends from across the country.
The path of totality for the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse is about 70 miles wide and stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. It will pass through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. It will begin in Columbia, South Carolina at 01:03 p.m. and end at Madras, Oregon at 11:41 a.m.
Join Here: 2017 Solar Eclipse Honeybee Watch
2017 Solar Eclipse - How Do Bees React?
Let's Look at Historical Accounts of Bees During a Solar Eclipse:
Jefferson County, Pennsylvania: On June 6, 1806, there was a total eclipse of the sun. Bees hastened to their hives, the fowls to their roosts, and the whip-poor-will whistled his twilight note. The pioneers and Indians were greatly alarmed. (1)
England: On 15th May, 1836, during an almost total solar eclipse honey bees, Apia mellifica Linn., started flocking back to the hives at 2:15 pm. when the eclipse began and the sunlight was sensibly diminished, and only few were leaving. At 3:15 pm, when little light remained and the temperature dropped from 20°C. to 15°C., the hives were quiet as in the evenings and not a bee Went abroad; also, cocks were crowing. At 4 pm. when the eclipse was nearly over, full activity Was resumed by the bees and they were going abroad in large numbers. He concluded (p. 306) as follows; “. . .that in proportion to the diminution of light the hives became quiet, and the temperature of the hives decreased until after the eclipse had passed its maximum, when as the light began again to increase, the activity of the hives became restored, and with its considerable increase of heat…“ (2)
Costa Rica: During a total eclipse on July 11, 1991 the bee behavior was not affected during the pre-eclipse phases but were during the total darkness. Most bees started flying back to the nest 5-7 minutes before the start of stage total darkness. The minimum number of bees was obtained at 14:10 hr when ended the period of darkness. From that time rapidly increased luminosity and temperature, and the number of bees in feeding sites. (3)
New England: At about 10 A.M. in the morning of May 18, 1780 the sky started to dim and by 11 there was darkness all around. It seems that the whole of New England was affected, and area “at least 650 miles in extent” according to contemporary reports. The Sun was blanked to such an extent that it was impossible to read a newspaper. The response to plants and animals were the same as during a solar eclipse. Cows ambled back to their sheds, fowl went to their roosts, bees returned to their hives, other insects went quiet, and flowers closed their petals. (4)
Portugal: During the total eclipse of 1900, the following observations were made by the Baron De Soutellinho Bees.—There were two hives of bees under observation, and in front of the hives were some plants of borage. 2:20 The bees were lively at the hives and on the borage. 3:05 Still lively. 3:30 Crowding into hives and leaving the borage. 3:32 No bees on borage, a few still entering hive. 3:40 Bees rushing in crowds out of hive. 3:50 Borage again covered with bees. (5)
Mana Pools National Park in Northern Zimbabwe: On June 21, 2001 a eclipse was witnessed by wildlife enthusiasts camped in the “The warmth of the sun had gone. In the chill, the hairs on my forearms and the back of my neck stood up. It was unusually silent with few birdcalls or insect noises. Birds had reacted to the reduced light as if to nightfall. Butterflies descended from the acacia flowers, settled and folded their wings. A swarm of bees ceased buzzing as they withdrew into a hive in the mud bank.” (6)
Massachusetts: The Solar Eclipse of August 31, 1932. The two following accounts by H. T, Wheeler, Lexington, Mass. and Joseph R. Burgess, Nantucket, Mass. give many additional details: The former writes: “During the period of the eclipse today I closely watched the behavior of eleven strong colonies of bees. They have been particularly busy on the big late honey flow from yellow gold rod and buckwheat, and were very active at the beginning of the eclipse at about 3:30 o’clock. the temperature was 85 F. and the sky partly overcast, with the sun shining through now and then. Here at Lincoln, where these observations were made, the clouds thickened and only a short sight of the sun at 4:30, just at the height of the eclipse was obtained. There was no direct sunlight afterward. At 4 P.M. not much change in temperature or in the activity of the bees could be noted. At 4.10 P.M. many more were coming in than were going out. At 4.20 P.M. the air was full of returning bees. Those leaving the hives flew about on erratic courses and came back. They also became excited and cross and it became dangerous to stay within forty feet of the hives. I beat off two attacks and returned to a safe distance. At 4.30, the period of greatest darkness, the fronts of the hives were covered with bees all trying to get in at once. At 4.40 a few stragglers came in — those caught in the dark a long way from home. At 4.45 there was not a bee in sight, not a sound in the apiary except the hum in the hives that is usually heard at night when the ear is held close to the hive. There was no outside activity, all having apparently arrived home. At 4:55 a few scouts came out and flew around, but as the clouds had become quite dense and the temperature had dropped to 74° — only 6 degrees above the supposed minimum at which bees work (I have, however, seen those which are hybrids, working at 55° F.) — the whole 2,750,000 of them, more or less, decided to call it a day and do house work. Probably the bees would have worked till nearly seven had the day been clear, as they usually work for sometime after sunset.
Mr. Burgess’s observations on five hives were published in the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror, September 10, 1932 and are here reproduced: “Nothing unusual was noted at first. The flight to and from the fields seemed normal. As it darkened the flight quickened and at the time of the greatest totality, the air was full of bees — a great roar of wings ensued and the entrances to the hives were blocked with bees trying to get in. Hive No. 3 appeared to have the least number. The great rush of bees was over at 4.32 in all hives except in No. 3. The others apparently had settled for the night. Guards walked back and forth at the entrances and there was no flight in the fields and little from the fields. Ordinarily the flight tapers off as sunset and night approaches. Hive No 1, which is composed of some black bees, started to drive the drones from the hive. Bees do this only after the nectar flow falls, especially in the Fall. Hive No. 3, not in the shade, showed a steady flow of bees for five minutes after the others. As the minutes passed and the sun grew larger, the bees appeared disturbed. Now and then one would look out, fly out a few feet and then return to the hive. A few ventured forth. At 4.50 everything was normal again. Just the sort of flight that occurs early in the morning. Flight getting stronger continually." Mr. Burgess offers the following as his explanation of the behavior of the bees: "Hive No. 1 consists of hybrid bees. The queen was bought for a pure Italian, but apparently she isn't. Black bees are more nervous than the Italians and this particular hive has given me trouble by robbing the others when the clover flow stopped in July. Either the bees were upset and this started them driving out the drones or, by some sense we know nothing about, they decided that the short Fall days were coming and it was time to get rid of the drones. The latter is open to serious argument, of course. "As to Hive No. 3. The hive itself received more light at the time of the eclipse; the light conditions in the fields where the bees were working were, as far as I know, the same. Why should the bees continue to pile in this hive five minutes or more after the flight of the others
Possibly the bees in that hive had been working at a greater distance, and the fact that these particular bees were in a light hive was a coincidence, I don't know." Only two of the observers failed to notice anything peculiar in the behavior of the honeybees during the eclipse. J. A. Stenart (Somer- worth, N. H.), reports that "the bees on the bamboo bush, when darkness obscured the sun, evidently did not mind, but kept on gathering honey," and S. J. Lowe (Westport, Mass.) found that "the bees continued to work all the time as though nothing out of the ordinary was going on." These observations cannot be given much weight, however. BUMBLEBEES (Bombus sp.) — A single observation on a bumblebee is reported by Margaret Harwood, N. Truro, Cape Cod, Mass.: " A bumblebee flew onto the coat sleeve of one of the men who were sitting on Mr. Aldrich's veranda to observe the eclipse. The bee became lifeless during totality. Several of the men blew smoke on to it but it did not move until the sky was decidedly lighter after totality was over." The reaction to darkness and lowered temperature might be expected since bumblebees not infrequently pass the night in flowers in a quiescent condition. (7)
(1) History of Crawford County, Pennsylvania: June 6, 1806 Natural Phenomena of Pioneer Days.
(2) BEHAVIOUR OF THE ROCK BEES, APIS DORSATA FABR., DURINGA PARTIAL SOLAR ECLIPSE IN INDIAby M. L. ROONWAL, F.N.I., Director, Zoological Survey of India,34 Chittaranjan Avenue, Calcutta 12
(3) Activity of Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera:Apidae) and some spiders (Araneidae) during the 1991 total solar eclipse in Costa Rica
(4) Eclipse: The Celestial Phenomenon That Changed the Course of History - 2001
(5) The total solar eclipse, 1900
(6) Why did hippos miss breakfast?
(7) Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Volume 70 - 1936