Honeybees are the latest victims to play host to fly eggs that are being laid inside of them. The process is turning the brain of the bees into zombies. The invasion is here. The flies have been known in the past to attack yellow jackets as well as bumblebees. The attacks on the honeybees were first noticed in 2008. A San Francisco State University professor, John Hafernik, discovered them.
The bees had originally been noticed in Oregon, California, South Dakota and Washington. Last October, Anthony Cantrell had discovered them on the east coast, in the state of Vermont. The beekeeper said that was the first time the zombie bees had ever been seen anywhere on the east coast.
The fly is known as the Apocephalus borealis. It is a parasitic fly that makes its home in North America. The female fly finds its prey then lays the eggs. After the eggs are planted inside the stomach of the honeybees, the bees begin to act unpredictably. When the eggs hatch the larvae of the fly will proceed to eat the bee from the inside. The bee eventually dies and the maggots surface through the neck of the bee. Sometimes there can be around 15 maggots that crawl out of the bee.
Why the flies began targeting the honeybees is still a mystery. The crazy behavior has them now labeled as zombie bees. Professor Hafernik has stated that this is because they fly about with no direction whatsoever. If there is any light in the area, the bees head towards it. Then they start to fall to the ground and roam about like a zombie. He added that they resembled a combination of an alien and a zombie.
The brains and bodies of the bees play host to the fly eggs. The eggs transition to the world by creating zombie like characteristics in the bees. Zombie Watch is dedicated to helping the infected bees. They study and track the bees. The watch group is able to stay on top of the study because of contributions from The Natural History Museum of L.A. County and departments through San Francisco State University.
The question now is how to prevent the flies from infecting even more of the bees. Were the flies always using the bees as a host? Can the flies be stopped at all? Another question is how to stop the onset of a massive Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
CCD takes place when the bees leave their hives and die. If this happens in large numbers, the pollination of some crops may suffer dramatic shortages. This could pose a large threat to some food supplies. Farmers have counted on the bees to pollinate the fields. The production of honey is also at risk.
A close eye is being kept on the bees that were spotted in Vermont. The European honeybees are common in the United States. The species of this fly was originally found in Maine back in the 1920’s. Why the flies used to only target bumblebees and yellow jackets but are now venturing out and targeting honeybees is still a mystery.
Scientists are working to discover the answers. In the meantime, the honeybees are still playing host to the fly eggs. The brains and bodies of the bees are being damaged. Once the problem can be stopped, people will be able to refer to the bees without the title of zombie.
By Saki Kahala