Insects can have similar effects on atmospheric electricity as weather events, say researchers

Posted: October 28, 2022 by oldbrew in atmosphere, research, weather
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Image credit: beeculture.com


Even a world-famous naturalist was baffled by the ‘aeronaut spiders’ appearing from nowhere on his ocean-going ship. Does this solve Darwin’s puzzle?
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By measuring the electrical fields near swarming honeybees, researchers have discovered that insects can produce as much atmospheric electric charge as a thunderstorm cloud, says ScienceDaily.

This type of electricity helps shape weather events, aids insects in finding food, and lifts spiders up in the air to migrate over large distances.

The research, appearing on October 24 in the journal iScience, demonstrates that living things can have an impact on atmospheric electricity.

“We always looked at how physics influenced biology, but at some point, we realized that biology might also be influencing physics,” says first author Ellard Hunting, a biologist at the University of Bristol. “We’re interested in how different organisms use the static electric fields that are virtually everywhere in the environment.”

As with most living creatures, bees carry an innate electric charge. Having found that honeybee hive swarms change the atmospheric electricity by 100 to 1,000 volts per meter, increasing the electric field force normally experienced at ground level, the team developed a model that can predict the influence of other species of insects.

“How insect swarms influence atmospheric electricity depends on their density and size,” says co-author Liam O’Reilly, a biologist at the University of Bristol. “We also calculated the influence of locusts on atmospheric electricity, as locusts swarm on biblical scales, sizing 460 square miles with 80 million locusts in less than a square mile; their influence is likely much greater than honeybees.”

“We only recently discovered that biology and static electric fields are intimately linked and that there are many unsuspected links that can exist over different spatial scales, ranging from microbes in the soil and plant-pollinator interactions to insect swarms and perhaps the global electric circuit,” says Ellard.

Full article here.
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Research article: Observed electric charge of insect swarms and their contribution to atmospheric electricity

Comments
  1. […] Insects can have similar effects on atmospheric electricity as weather events, say researchers | Tal… […]

  2. JB says:

    ” insects can produce as much atmospheric electric charge as a thunderstorm cloud”
    Not so sure about that. Localized at ground level, but surely not by volume of a thunderstorm. I don’t see how the electric charge of a single cloud in a storm can be isolated and measured.

    http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=898
    “Influence of Cyclones on the Atmospheric Electric Field
    of Kamchatka”

    So what’s the charge level produced by humans in major cities, especially during mass protests? Is this mass charge related to crowd mentality?

  3. oldbrew says:

    JB – the research article gives some details e.g. Figure 1B.

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2022.105241

  4. JB says:

    “the atmospheric electric field can be regarded as a fundamental atmospheric property. It is conventionally observed as the vertical Potential Gradient (PG), essentially the voltage difference between the Earth’s surface and a point (often 1 m) above it (Everett,1868; Fdez-Arroyabe et al., 2021;Whipple, 1929).” journal iScience

    Some clarification of measurement technique of swarms is needed here.

  5. Gamecock says:

    ‘By measuring the electrical fields near swarming honeybees, researchers have discovered that insects can produce as much atmospheric electric charge as a thunderstorm cloud, says ScienceDaily.’

    So if you see a swarm of honeybees, jump in a ditch and lay in the mud.

    ‘Clear sky lightning’ solved.

  6. Curious George says:

    Finally! With the journal iScience EVERYBODY can be a researcher. Equity in science!

  7. […] Insects can have similar effects on atmospheric electricity as weather events, say researchers […]

  8. Saighdear says:

    So it brings some credence to that old phrase about the Buttefly in China beating it’s wings ….
    Next time you see a Wasp’s nest in the ground ( ie underground) WATCH as they shift / fight back at your attempts to close off the entrance hole with soil. Their power is astonishing. DA never showed you that , did he, just a walrus falling off a cliff …..

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