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How a Solar Eclipse Affects Your Bees

If you are anywhere in the United States today, August 21, 2017, you will be able to see the moon block out a portion of the sun—and if you’re in the 70 mile wide Path of totality, you will witness the rare, once-in-a-lifetime event of a Total Solar Eclipse.

Bees in the dark

The phase of the moon, the distance between the Earth Sun, and Moon and the exact time of day are all factors that come into play for Eclipses—combine that with having to physically be in a location on the planet that the shadow of the moon will pass over during those few moments when everything is aligned makes the event even more rare.

Because this is such a once-in-a-lifetime event, most people have their eyes on the skies, watching the spectacular corona aura in the darkened sky above instead of on the ground observing animal behavior. You may be wondering how the eclipse will affect your bees. Here’s what some historical accounts tell us:

Excerpt from “Eclipse: The celestial phenomenon that changed the course of history”
[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....The Sun was blanked to such an extent that it was impossible to read a newspaper…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.”

Excerpt from “The total Solar Eclipse, 1900”
[During the total eclipse of 1900, the following observations were made by the Baron De Soutellinho of Portugal]
”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.”

Excerpt from The Solar Eclipse of Aug. 30, 1905 “The American Beekeeper, 1906”
[France]
During the last eclipse of the sun, an apiculturist of Pau, in the southern portion of France, noticed that the obscurity came so quickly that the bees which were out could not find the entrances of their hives in time. The covers, the ground around and in the apiary and other objects were covered with bees that had succeeded in coming in that far, but failed to get in. They remained perfectly quiet until the eclipse was over.”

If you happen to have a hive or two in the path of totality and you take the time to enjoy the eclipse while spending time with your bees, let us know what you see. We’d love to hear all about your observations!

10 thoughts on “How a Solar Eclipse Affects Your Bees”

  • Heather Thormodson
    Heather Thormodson August 21, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Hello!

    We have just started raising honeybees and today with the eclipse we noticed that it was like they (the bees) stopped in their tracks and were silent. Odd but perhaps expected? We live in central MN and only have 3 small hives but we like to check them often.

    What did your honeybees do?

    Our hives are more educational for the generations in our family and it's interconnectedness with all things around. We live out in the country and planted one field into buckwheat which is certified organic.

    Curious to learn more,

    Heather

    Reply
    • GloryBee

      Heather, Thanks for the heads up! Interesting to hear about your experience today. We LOVE buckwheat honey :-)

      Although we weren't in the totality of the eclipse (99.5% here in Eugene), we noticed MANY more bees coming back to their hive like it was dusk.

      Other keepers around the state said that they saw similar behavior and some in the totality saw bees just hunker down on the ground like they do if they can't make it back to the hive before it gets dark.

      Wild day! Thanks again for the heads up!

      Reply
  • David Minnich

    I only noticed that about 2 hours after the eclipse today, my hives were extremely angry. As I walked up to them and got within 10 feet they started bouncing off of me and as I got closer I started to get sting. All totaled about 5 stings to the face. It's never happened to me before. I don't have "hot hives" and I typically work in my hives with no protective gear and many times no smoke. This time I didn't even lift a lid and they were stinging me. Very strange. I'm planning on getting in the hives tomorrow evening, but I'll be prepared with smoke and veil.

    David

    Reply
  • Robin DeWitte

    I was not watching our bees during the eclipse but I noticed about 3 hours later that worker bees were dragging live drones out of the hive. I didn't see this happening yesterday and it seems too early for the drones to be kicked out of the hive.

    Reply
    • GloryBee

      Robin, Interesting! It did get a LOT cooler here during the eclipse (Felt like 10 to 15 degrees). I wonder if that had any impact on the behavior you're seeing?

      Reply
  • douglas

    Live in Washington state, and we grow a hysoop plant. Bee's enjoy its nector, and we enjoy watching them. All day long, they'll be around it normally. But on that morning, they left the plant to return to their hive, and never returned for the remainder of the day. It was creepy!

    Reply
  • Mike Belleme

    I'm not a bee keeper or expert, but I was on a lake during the eclipse to watch the totality, and we noticed just after totality that lots of honey bees had fallen into the water during the eclipse. I was curious about why they had fallen from the sky, so if anyone has any info let me know.

    Reply
  • Robert Csandl

    One of our hives is on the property of a friend’s 80+ acre organic farm outside of Zionsville,Pa. Her helper, Aurthur, was outside near the hives during the solar eclipse… He said the bees came out of the hive and were spinning in the 'double helix' pattern directly above the hive for several minutes during the eclipse.
    He was so astounded by what he was seeing he did not even think to photograph it. It would have been an award winning photo for National Geographic had he thought of it. Pretty amazing.
    Have you heard of anything like this????
    Maybe next eclipse - if we are not compost or senile - we can look out for this phenomena….

    Reply
    • GloryBee

      Robert, We've never heard of anything like this, but it sounds like an amazing experience! We'll keep an eye out on the internet for anything that sounds similar and hopefully next eclipse you can get some video or a photo!

      Reply

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