The recent earthquake that shook California alarmed many not only because of the destruction it caused but also because of the supposed fatal effect it had on bees. The bee population is already in decline, and this recent series of bee death occurrence just hammered another nail in the proverbial coffin for bees.
Does earthquake kill bees? There is no definitive study regarding the fatal effect of the quake on bees. This is the reason why there is also no specific answer to this question. Experts believe that earthquakes do affect bees at some level, but it cannot be pointed to explicitly as a cause for bee death.
There is no question about the fact that bees were found either disoriented or dead after the California earthquake. Countless people had confirmed sightings of unusual bee behavior even before the ground shook. Plenty of photos and testimonies of beekeepers who found various dead bees afterward also surrounds the internet. In this article, we will try to find out if bees are really affected by the earthquake and if there are previously reported bee deaths after an earthquake in the past.
Fact or Fiction: Earthquake in California The Cause of Bees Demise
Ridge Crest, California was rocked by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake followed by a 6.4 quake later in the same region. Although California is not new to earthquakes since it lies on the San Andreas fault line, but this recent earthquake is said to be the biggest in the last 20 years. Thankfully, no human casualties were reported, but roads cracked and gas lines erupted as a result of the tremors. Nevertheless, unexpected casualties were reported by many – bees.
After the earthquake wreak it’s havoc to all man-made structures, a video uploaded by Khalil Underwood, who is a famous media influencer – showed bees vibrating on the floor and countless others dead. The numbers were astounding, and it baffled even the experts as what could have caused this. There were no studies conducted before to verify that earthquakes can cause death to bees.
Extensive research is done for this article to find if this phenomenon has occurred before. I saw one report stating that bees have been recorded to die after a 7.2 earthquake in a place called Baja California in Mexico back in 2010. It is the only article on the matter, and no publications of other sorts have pointed me to a definitive conclusion if earthquakes kill bees.
Is There A Scientific Explanation For The Bees Death After The Quake?
A document, written by Joseph L. Kirkschvink entitled “Earthquake Predictions by Animals” mentioned how bees exhibit strange behaviors as if they can sense an intense seismic activity 15 minutes before it hit. According to the same book, the ability of the bees to detect the earth’s magnetic field is the root of their seismic predicting ability. However, there is no mention of an earthquake, fatally affecting the bees on the book.
One theory that came up is that since bees have a sixth sense when it comes to earth’s magnetic fields, and an earthquake is a seismic activity that is closely tied to it; then the disruption to the earth’s magnetic field may have caused navigation problems for bees. It would then leave the bees confused and not able to return to their hive and later on die of exhaustion.
Another theory is that the changes in the magnetic field weakened the immune system of the bees, which then allows whatever illness or parasite the bee currently have increased in virality and cause the bee to die.
Others believe that since bees are sensitive to extremely low frequency, the disruption an earthquake causes on the magnetic field is picked up by the bees which then impair them of cognitive skills and motor abilities, hence, producing twitching on the ground scenario.
Can Bees And Other Insects Sense Earthquake?
An article released by National Geographic talks about how animals can sense when an earthquake is about to hit. The same article mentions how Japan – which is among the places most prone to earthquakes – have been actively studying the behavior of animals before an earthquake occurs. They are doing this in the hopes that they can utilize these behaviors as an early warning system.
However, the same cannot be said for American scientists. They believe that there are just too many variables to consider to put their faith in the hands of animal and insect behavior. The United States Geological Survey have expressed their reservation on this matter as well. They mentioned how both animals and insects react to so many things like hunger, mating, and predators. Driving their point further, USGS also said that it is challenging to create a reproducible connection between animal behavior and earthquakes in a controlled environment. Therefore, preventing the science industry in determining if there really is a relation.
There are plenty of forums on the net that talks about how their animals and bees behave erratically for a few hours or even a few days before the earthquake hit them. If you look at how animals behave in the wild during storms, typhoons, or forest fire, you’ll quickly see that they have a better grasp on when is the time to flee. They have keener senses and knows when to hide from an oncoming storm or typhoon or run away from forest fires.
Some of the most noticeable behavior beekeepers observed from their hive before the earthquake struck are swarming, flying in circles, and loud buzzing as if agitated. Plenty of reports said that bees seem to be disoriented as they would only use one side to enter and exit the hive. Average bee behavior shows them flying in and out from all entrances.
Recorded Behavior Of Bees Right Before The California Earthquake
A beekeeping blog named Mark’s Bees! Posted that his bees did behave in an unusual manner minutes before an earthquake shook the ground. He may be from South Carolina, but the same behavior has been observed by beekeepers in California minutes before the 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked their grounds.
A 46 year old beekeeper who lives near Ridgecrest California, mentioned that his bees were agitated as well. He noticed how they were flying out of the hive, but none were flying in. He described the behavior as “like swarming but less organized”. The cluster the bees were forming mid-air is too loose for a typical swarm.
Another beekeeper from the same area said that her bees looked like drunk bees as they fly in circles higher than usual. She described her bees as “disoriented” as they seem to be just hovering in front of the hive or flying in circles above the colony.
There are a few more forums that mentioned this strange behavior. So far, I have not read a reply nor have I found scholarly papers and dissertations coming from experts, stating the connection of the odd response to earthquakes.
Should We Be Alarmed After The Recent Death Of Bees in California?
We all know how bees population have declined and continue to decline nowadays. This recent bee death issue after the earthquake has taken the internet by storm. It is both unusual and scary.
Bees have been playing an important role in putting food on our table. You may not realize it, but the majority of the food we eat is pollinated using bees. The last decade have alarmed many environmentalists after experiencing a rapid decline in the bee population. And now, this unexpected decline in bee population happened. Many are now wondering if we should start to worry.
In my opinion, we should have been worried a long time ago. As it turns out, this freaky phenomenon of bees dying after an earthquake has happened before. If you factor in the other causes of the bee population decline, then worry is something we should feel. We should be scared, especially of the consequences if the bees continue to decline in numbers.
Try joining some clubs aiming to educate kids and other people about the plight of the bees if you want to help out. You can also switch to buying local produce and local honey to help out the beekeepers as well as the bees. Look for beekeepers who can partner with so that you can adopt or sponsor a hive. Turn to social media to spread the word on what will happen if we don’t help the bees out.
The main point of this article is that there is no conclusive study or research that points out that earthquakes cause the recent bees’ death. Yes, animals have keener senses than humans and therefore might have the ability to sense when seismic activity is about to occur.
However, the lack of tangible proof is what’s stopping the experts from using them as a useful early warning tool for earthquakes. Japanese researchers are still looking into this topic, but there is still no definitive answer if animals can be used to predict an earthquake in the near future. Even if there is no conclusive evidence regarding the connection of bees and earthquakes, the countless reports of strange and unusual behavior of bees observed by beekeepers before the earthquake suggests that maybe bees are affected by the seismic activity.
Don’t forget that bees need all the help they can get from us humans and that we should be worried not just for us but also for the next generations to come if the bees continue to lose their battle for survival.