How an eclipse affects plants and animals

LIMA — Animals and nature react interestingly to phenomena like solar eclipses.

But when the earth, moon and sun align April 8 over the region, area farmers and animal caregivers are not too worried about how it will affect them.

“For domestic animals like chickens and horses, anytime the skies darken, there will be a reaction for the farm animals,” said Jed Metzger, Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce president. “Basically they’re reacting to the temperature change, rather than the lightness and darkness. So you might see anything from barnyard animals going back to the stables or going to roost to bees going back to their hives because that is their natural instinct.”

According to the state of Ohio, temperatures can drop up to 10 degrees during an eclipse and the change in daylight could even affect household pets and make nocturnal wildlife wake up.

“If they’re out playing in the yard and it gets dark, they’re going to go inside,” said Metzger, himself a former farmer. “If you have stray cats or dogs out in the country, they will probably find a place to hunker down until they feel safe when the light comes back out. I think you’ll see birds go back to their nest because it’s not normal to them and they think it’s nighttime.”

Nutrien special projects manager Russ Decker, who also owns a horse farm, said he and other area farmers he has talked to do not expect the eclipse to affect the livestock and crops too much.

“From a lifestyle perspective, it’s really not going to have any impact on livestock at all,” he said. “They’re going to see it as an extra sunset and sunrise, so they won’t put too much stress on the environment. They’re just out there grazing and enjoying the water.”

Since there are not many crops growing in the region during this season, Decker said most farmers are not worried.

“In our region, there would be very little chance that crops are in the ground that early,” he added. “Our biggest worry as far as agriculture would be people parking out in the fields and doing damage in that way. And if they get stuck, the grower might have to go out and work in the field a little bit to get ready to plant again.”

But even that would be minimal.

There have been some examples of exotic animals behaving unusually during an eclipse, Indiana University doctoral student Liz Aguilar said in an article on

Aguilar said there are case examples from zoos where baboons were seen huddling together and remaining highly vigilant during an eclipse, while giraffes and elephants began approaching the entrance of their enclosures.

Decker also said that during the 2017 eclipse that passed near Lima, he did not hear of any issues with livestock.

Metzger said that even if animals do react to the phenomenon, it should not last long, and making our animal friends feel safe is easy.

“I think we just have to be prepared even though it might be for just a short time,” he said. “We can take them where they feel safe and secure, back to the barn or to the stables, but whenever the sun comes out they’ll come back and return to normal. It may be a little confusing to them during that three- to 10-minute period of time, but I think they will be fine.”

Regardless, observing how animals react to the eclipse should be another interesting aspect of the event.

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.