Start stocking up on supplies, kids. The dead are among us, and they have wings! Startling news has hit the headlines today on many reputable sites stating that a parasitic fly is actually spreading a zombie virus to honeybees! Read on for the details on what could just be the beginning of the end!
According to Scientific American a heap of dead bees was supposed to become food for a newly captured praying mantis. Instead, the pile ended up revealing a previously unrecognized suspect in colony collapse disorder — a mysterious condition that for several years has been causing declines in U.S. honeybee populations, which are needed to pollinate many important crops. This new potential culprit is a bizarre — and potentially devastating — parasitic fly that has been taking over the bodies of honeybees (Apis mellifera) in Northern California.
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. A fly (Apocephalus borealis) had inserted its eggs into the bees, using their bodies as a home for its developing larvae. And the invaders had somehow led the bees from their hives to their deaths. A detailed description of the newly documented relationship was published online Tuesday in PLoS ONE.
The parasitic fly lays eggs in a bee’s abdomen. Several days later, the parasitized bee bumbles out of the hives — often at night — on a solo mission to nowhere. These bees often fly toward light and wind up unable to control their own bodies. After a bee dies, as many as 13 fly larvae crawl out from the bee’s neck (see image below). The bees’ behavior seems similar to that of ants that are parasitized — and then decapitated from within — by other fly larvae from the Apocephalus genus.
“When we observed the bees for some time — the ones that were alive — we found that they walked in circles, often with no sense of direction,” Andrew Core, a graduate student who works with Hafernik and a co-author on the new paper, said in a prepared statement, describing them as behaving “something like a zombie.”
Spooky stuff, huh? How long before a movie is made in which the “ZOMBEES” stings humans, thereby turning them into actual zombies. Wait … can that happen? Oh my!
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