We all know well that thunderstorms produce an electric charge, but new exciting research shows that a swarm of honeybees can also generate as much electricity as a thunderstorm. This phenomenon was, however, discovered by chance by researchers at the University of Bristol in the UK.
Biologist Ellard Hunting, the study's first author, told CNN that the Bristol group concentrated on how various life forms use the static electric fields everywhere around them. Atmospheric electricity benefits organisms in various ways, mainly helping organisms search for food and shape weather events.
This can be well understood from an example that flowers have an electric field, and honeybees can detect these fields. Furthermore, these electric fields of blossoms can change when a honey bee has visited it, and different honey bees can use that data to see whether a bloom has been visited," explained Hunting.
Having set up equipment to quantify barometrical electric fields at the university's field station, which includes a few honey bee hives, Hunting and his group saw that at whatever point the honey bees swarmed, there was "a significant impact on environmental electric fields," even though the weather conditions hadn't changed.
Hunting further said all insect species create a charge during flight because of air erosion, with the charge's size varying between species. However, individual honey bees convey a charge that is sufficiently little to be disregarded by specialists, so "this impact (in amassing honey bees) came as a shock.
The specialists noticed the hives on the field station, utilizing a camera and electric field monitors to measure electric currents during the honey bee swarms. Scientists wrote in the study that swarms can happen when a hive becomes packed, with the queen honey bee leaving with around 12,000 working bees.
The monitors measured the flows for roughly three minutes as the swarms passed over them and caught charges going from 100 to 1,000 volts for each meter. Hunting and his colleagues saw that the electric field was more prominent when the swarm was thicker - all the more densely packed with honey bees. Moreover, they saw that the atmospheric electric charge will be similar to that of a thunderstorm and electrified dust storm depending on the swarm density.
Utilizing the model developed with the bumble bees, the group anticipated the impact of other bug species - like locusts which are speculated that they could change their neighborhood electrical environment with a "magnitude equivalent to meteorological events," the research says.
Hunting said he believes the group's discoveries open up new roads of exploration, particularly in the connection between the natural world and atmospheric electric power.