Millions of people around the country are getting ready to experience the solar eclipse on August 21 2017. If you are lucky enough to be in the 70 mile wide path of totality you will experience a rare 2+ minutes of total darkness in the middle of the day which is exciting if you’re expecting it, but if you’re a bee it can really mess up your day.
Bees use UV rays from the sun to navigate, these rays are usually unaffected by weather such as overcast skies, clouds block a lot of visible light, but generally only block about 20% of the UV radiation from the sun, leaving plenty of rays for bees to use to navigate. When a total solar eclipse occurs the moon blocks the sun’s rays it blocks just about everything, and bees lose their most important navigation tool. For us this would be like driving along the highway when all of the sudden the road disappears, which would be cause for alarm. Since total eclipses are pretty rare, and the chances of having a beekeeper actively observing their hive while experiencing an eclipse are even more scarce, that’s why there aren’t many accounts on how bees act when this occurs.
From the existing accounts, it seems like the bees will head back to their hive as totality creeps in, but if they are too far out and get stuck in the darkness of totality witnesses have reported that they tend to just stop and wait it out. All of this can create some major confusion back at the hive, and there is a chance that it will disrupt the hive enough to cause some long term damage. Fortunately this seems to be less common, unless there is a hive that is already unhealthy total solar eclipses won’t cause enough disruption to harm a hive without other contributing factors. Hopefully most bees stuck in totality this time around take a note from their bipedal friends and just take a break to enjoy an awesome astronomical event.