Accessibility navigation

Observed electric charge of insect swarms and their contribution to atmospheric electricity

Hunting, E. R., O'Reilly, L. J., Harrison, R. G. ORCID:, Manser, K., England, S. J., Harris, B. H. and Robert, D. (2022) Observed electric charge of insect swarms and their contribution to atmospheric electricity. iScience. 105241. ISSN 2589-0042

Text (Open access) - Published Version
· Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.
· Please see our End User Agreement before downloading.

[img] Text - Accepted Version
· Restricted to Repository staff only


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.

To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.105241


The atmosphere hosts multiple sources of electric charge, which influence critical processes such as the aggregation of droplets and the removal of dusts and aerosols. This is evident in the variability of the atmospheric electric field. While these electric fields are known to respond to physical and geological processes, the effect of biotic sources of charge has not hitherto been considered. Here, we combine theoretical and empirical evidence to demonstrate that honeybee swarms directly contribute to atmospheric electricity, in proportion to swarm density. We provide a quantitative assessment of this finding, by comparing the electrical contribution of various swarming insect species with common abiotic sources of charge. This reveals that the charge contribution of some insect swarms will be comparable with that of meteorologically-induced variations. The observed transport of charge by insects therefore demonstrates an unexplored role of biogenic space charge for physical and ecological processes in the atmosphere.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:107575
Publisher:Cell Press


Downloads per month over past year

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation