The electrical charge of insect swarms makes a major contribution to atmospheric electricity

Researchers from the universities of Bristol and Reading have found that the electrical charge of insects can trigger changes in atmospheric electricity. This atmospheric electricity is similar to meteorological processes. So says the University of Bristol in its press release.

Reverse roles

Previously, the team studied how different organisms use the static electric fields that are virtually everywhere in the environment. They showed that bees and spiders use the electric fields surrounding flowers to feed and eventually migrate.

“We always looked at how physics influenced biology, but at some point we realized that biology could also influence physics,” explained Dr Ellard Hunting, an ecologist at Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences.

The honey bee swarm contributed atmospheric electricity directly, in proportion to the density of the swarm. The team assessed its relevance by calculating the electrical contribution of various swarming insect species and comparing it to common abiotic, physical and non-biological sources of charge. This revealed that the charge contribution of some insect swarms can be comparable to that of weather-induced variations. It demonstrates an unexplored role of biology for physical and ecological processes in the atmosphere.

Read the full press release here.