Foraging and homing behavior of honey bees (Apis mellifera) during a total solar eclipse
Waiker, P., S. Baral, S. Bhatia, A. Rueppell, K. Le, E. Amiri, J. M. Tsuruda, and O. Rueppell.  2019.  The Science of Nature, 106: 4.

Exceptional natural phenomena, such as those that occur during a total solar eclipse, provide unique opportunities to study animal behavior outside the naturally evolved context, which can be informative in more general terms. Circumstantial descriptions of abnormal animal behavior during solar eclipses abound, although scientific studies conducted during an eclipse are relatively rare due to inherent logistical difficulties. Here, honey bee foraging and homing behavior were studied during the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017. In the first experiment, we studied foraging behavior of honey bees during the progression of the solar eclipse and found that the foraging activity drastically decreased but did not completely cease during the totality of the eclipse, in contrast to previous reports of complete cessation. The data indicate that the level of ambient light can largely overrule the internal circadian rhythm of foraging honey bees. Furthermore, colonies with a higher need for foraging decreased their foraging activity less than satiated colonies, consistent with the hypothesis that individual foraging decisions may be influenced by colony state, which affects cost-benefit analyses. In a second experiment, the temporal dynamics of homing of released workers and drones was compared in periods before, during, and after the solar eclipse. During the totality of the eclipse, very few bees arrived back at their hive, while homing before the total eclipse was accelerated, particularly in drones. The results suggest that, while the homing abilities of honey bees are not compromised until the sun is completely eclipsed, they may still interpret the diminishing light as an indicator of deteriorating flight conditions. Our unique study provides some insight into the control of honey bee foraging behavior when external cues and internal circadian rhythms are at odds, lent support to the notion that food deprivation can lead to riskier foraging, and indicated that homing in honey bees is possible even with very small amounts of sunlight.