The most intense earthquakes to hit California in 20 years rocked the state just a few days ago, tearing open roads and doing plenty of structural damage near the town of Ridgecrest, with fires erupting and gas pipes rupturing.
After the 7.1 earthquake, a person reported that bees were the unexpected casualties of the California quake that hit Death Valley in the Mohave Desert. He tweeted a video showing bees scattered around his driveway, lying paralyzed and twitching before they died.
Many people reacted to his story. One theory is that the earthquake may have interrupted or disrupted Earth’s seismic or magnetic field... and if bees use this field to navigate, it may have killed them. Another theory is that the bees were killed by a chemical poison due to their twitching and vibrating. Could they have died from a ruptured pipeline gas leak? There do not seem to have been any other reported mass bee deaths.
These are all just theories. Something unrelated to the earthquake may have killed the bees, but the story is disturbing.
This story was reported in multiple British media outlets with sensationalized titles like 'Bee Apocalypse' and 'Bee Armageddon' but it was hard to find any reference to it in the US news. Very strange.
Animals have been documented as behaving strangely during other earthquakes. After the 1999 and 2000 earthquakes in Taiwan (7.3 and 6.8 magnitudes), a 3-year study showed they had a devastating effect on local insects.
In some online forums there were chats from years ago about odd bee behavior shortly before a quake and during a quake, but right after it the bees got back to business as usual. Some beekeepers in New Zealand said their bees were nervous and swarmed, flew in circles, but that after the earthquake passed they calmed down.
They didn’t get paralyzed and die.
There just isn't much information available about bees dying due to earthquakes, so let's see if we can turn this California story into a learning opportunity.
What do you think? Have you observed bees around the time of a serious earthquake? If any beekeepers, teachers and scientists are reading this blog, please share your knowledge and wisdom with us on our Facebook page.