Honey Bees Navigate by Magnetic Fields

Many animals are thought to navigate via natural magnetic fields, including fish, birds, reptiles, and insects.  Now, according to researchers at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, honey bees can be added to that list.

The theory explaining magnetic navigation in animals involves magnetite, a magnetic iron oxide compound that is found in the bodies of some organisms.  This study measured the magnetization of each section of bees’ bodies – head, thorax, and abdomen – by applying magnetic fields, and found evidence of magnetism in the abdomens.  When exposed to a magnetic field thousands of times stronger than the Earth’s natural magnetic fields, bees became even more magnetized than non-exposed bees.

To determine the effect of this magnetization on the bees’ ability to navigate, researchers trained bees to find a sugary food source in the midst of a magnetic fields created by electrical coils.  Once trained, half the bees were magnetized by exposure to a strong magnetic field for a few seconds.  Compared to the control group, the magnetized bees had more difficulty finding the food source, which indicated that the exposure to magnetic fields had interfered with their magnetoreceptors.

What does all this mean?  Aside from being one more interesting fact about bees, it might point the way to more research, such as studies to find out if electromagnetic noise from industrial processes have an effect on bees’ health.  And, as we all know by now, what’s good for bees is good for humans.

At Hummer and Son, we’re proud of our bees and all the amazing things they can do, and we’re proud to share their premium Louisiana honey and other products with you.  For more information, contact us.