Zombie Bees?

One of my interests is anything in science, and every now and then a news story catches my eye.  One of the major concerns in agriculture is “colony collapse disorder,” or CCD.   What is it?  It’s when beekeepers find the sudden disappearance or death of their bee colonies.  Since bees are of major importance as pollinators for many crops, the loss of so many hives has serious consequences.  A number of potential culprits have identified, as well as fingers pointed at others.  A new culprit – or contributor has just been identified.

(Source: Fig. 1A of Core A, Runckel C, Ivers J, Quock C, Siapno T, et al. (2012). “A new threat to honey bees, the parasitic phorid fly Apocephalus borealis“. PLoS ONE 7 (1). DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0029639.) via Wikimedia Commons.

Yes, this small fly.  What does it do?

If deadly viruses and fungi weren’t enough, honeybees in North America now must also deal with a fly parasite that causes them to leave their hive and die after wandering about in a zombie-like stupor, a new study shows.

The interesting thing is that this was a known parasite of bees, but not of honeybees.  That was only discovered by accident.

John Hafernik, a biology professor at San Francisco State University, had collected some belly-up bees from the ground underneath lights around the University’s biology building. “But being an absent-minded professor,” he noted in a prepared statement, “I left them in a vial on my desk and forgot about them.” He soon got a shock. “The next time I looked at the vial, there were all these fly pupae surrounding the bees,” he said.

It may not be causative, it may not be “The Reason,” but it shows just how much we don’t know about nature, and sometimes we learn that by accident.


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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Zombie Bees?

  1. Wicked cool!

    Though not for the bees.

    • I rather thought so. :) Most of these types of flies are fairly specific about which species they’ll parasitize, so it’s not like people were looking for them. Honeybees are not a native species, so you wouldn’t think that a parasite of native species would be able to use them. But, they probably don’t have the defenses that native bees have developed, either.

      • ArrogantDemon

        Well, not so

        No bees, no natural way to pollinate the food, this is not cool, especially to food prices.

        And plus, you got some nutters out there that might to mess with this and create a real life Project Nemesis

        Not cool, lets make some real life…errm, real dead zombies