Scientists from San Francisco State University just announced the latest in a string of explanations for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) (a phenomenon that has decimated worldwide populations of honeybees): parasitic flies are attacking bees and turning them into zombies. The study, published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, reveals that after the flies attack the bees and lay eggs in their abdomens, the bees then abandon their hives and congregate around light en masse, Walking Dead-style. When they finally do die, their bodies then become cocoons from which up to 13 fly larvae emerge about a week later.

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Scientists have long known that Apocephalus borealis attacks bumblebees, but they only recently conducted genetic testing which demonstrates that phorids emerging from honey bees and bumble bees were the same species. According to the study’s abstract published on PLoS ONE, “Microarray analyses of honey bees from infected hives revealed that these bees are often infected with deformed wing virus and Nosema ceranae.” Because larvae and adult phorids also tested positive for these pathogens, scientists concluded that the fly is “a potential vector or reservoir of these honey bee pathogens.”

Professor John Hafernik from San Francisco State University told the Daily Mail, “We don’t know the best way to stop parasitisation because one of the big things we’re missing is where the flies are parasitising the bees.” He added that honey bees are among the most thoroughly-studied insects, and that scientists would have discovered the parasitic fly before now if this phenomenon had been occurring for a long time.

Via Daily Mail, PLoS ONE

Honey bee image via wintersixfour

Small Grey Hairy Tachinid Fly – a butterfly caterpillar parasite – via Brisbane Insects