Last year a team of scientists at San Francisco State University discovered that parasitic flies are attacking bees and turning them into zombies that walk around in circles until dying and hatching larvae from their abdomens. Professor John Hafernik believes that tracking and studying these parasite-infected “ZomBees” will provide insight into colony collapse disorder, and he’s turning to the public for help. Hafernik just launched a ZomBee Watch website where citizens can upload information on ZomBee sightings around the city.
Hafernik first noticed the zombie bee problem when he captured several honeybees that were walking in circles on the sidewalk, which later died and hatched brown fly pupae from their abdomens. Nicknaming the infected bees “ZomBees,” he began collecting and studying specimens to find out exactly what was happening.
What Hafernik found was astonishing, to say the least. The host bees are literally eaten alive from the inside out, as eggs laid in their abdomens by parasitic Phorid flies hatch and begin to feed. While the parasitic pupae grow inside, the bees exhibit extremely peculiar behavior. An infected bee will appear to lose consciousness and fly out of its hive and toward light sources, where it will walk in circles until it loses control of its legs and dies. Death occurs when a mature fly escapes through the bee’s neck.
The whole process is pretty morbid, so Hafernik has taken it upon himself to be a protector of bees, with the ZomBee Watch. With the website, citizens can become “zombee hunters,” collecting bees displaying the same behavior, then reporting their findings to Harfernik and his team.
Via Huffington Post