(Mirror Daily, United States) – Honeybees colonies are already threatened worldwide, with number plummeting dangerously around the world. However, tiny flies transform bees in The Buzzing Dead, as a new threat emerges on the West Coast.
These flies make them stagger around like zombies – hence the nickname zombees – in addition to making uncharacteristic night flights; the afflicted bees were often reported buzzing around porch lights before dying.
The spreading of the phenomenon remains unknown, but the most documented cases happened on the West Coast, but volunteers have also caught some zombees buzzing in eastern states. Besides the recent collapse in numbers, honeybees have also been threatened by nutritional deficiencies and vampire mites.
John Hafernik, a biology professor at San Francisco State University, isn’t worried that this bug will be the end of honeybees. However, he was intrigued by the situation where the parasite’s effect on the bees’ behavior means they will abandon their hive, causing disruption.
Back in 2012, Hafernik had started the ZomBee Watch program calling on volunteers willing to track the spread of the phenomenon. So far, more than 100 confirmed cases were reported, with participants collecting and sending photos of the zombee cases.
Back in 2008, Hafernik scooped up some disoriented bees buzzing around a light outside his campus office; that was only the first of the many documented cases of zombees found in the San Francisco area and beyond. Researchers found eggs of Apocephalus borealis flies in the bees’ abdomens after they were attacked, which caused the erratic behavior of the doomed bees.
The East Coast had its first documented case of zombees in 2013, reported by a Burlington, Vermont beekeeper; this year, Joe Naughton, an amateur beekeeper who owns 200,000 bees, has also discovered two confirmed cases in the Hudson Valley, north of New York City. However, he says he “is not panicking just yet.”
Naughton is confident that in spite of the sensational news that can emerge from dubbing them zombees, it’s not yet the time to have the alarm bells ringing. Considering the cases have barely hit 100, researchers are still just fact finding.
A valid theory is that zombee watchers are just now detecting a phenomenon that’s been going on for a while, in spite of the more recent reports of the honeybees buzzing beneath night lights. Researchers are also not sure if this threat is in any way connected to colony collapse disorder, a syndrome for which they have yet to find a cause.
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