You've heard of honey bees. Queen bees. Drone bees. What about -- "Zom-bees"? San Francisco biologists say parasite flies are turning honeybees into zombie slaves.
Dr. John Hafernik explains his findings to San Francisco's KGO-TV.
"'Look at it, there were all these little brown pupae in it. I knew they were flies.' That is when the doctor knew he made an accidental discovery. 'These were indicating there's a fly coming out of these bees.' ...
'Discovery, basically there was nothing left inside the bee.' The cycle begins once a fertile fly finds a bee, and uses an appendage called the ovipositor to penetrate the body and lay eggs, which eventually hatch inside as maggots -- lots of maggots, according to the research team."
Sick -- right? Not to mention, something straight out of a horror flick. MSNBC explains the behavior which led to the moniker.
"... a fly parasite that causes [honeybees] to leave their hive and die after wandering about in a zombie-like stupor ... 'They kept stretching [their legs] out and then falling over,' Andrew Core... said in a statement. 'It really painted a picture of something like a zombie.'"
Officially, researchers call it, "Colony Collapse Disorder." No one had ever used that term before 2006. The Telegraph notes...
"Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is marked by the sudden disappearance of worker bees from a colony. ... Viral and fungal infections and toxic chemicals in pesticides have all been suggested as possible explanations for CCD. The new theory involves a parasitic fly ... which is already known to attack bumblebees. Evidence has now emerged of the fly targeting honey bees."
Beyond the tragedy for the bees themselves, some media outlets note the damage to honey bees, which produce honey, beeswax, and pollinate vast numbers of food crops. The San Jose Mercury News reports,
"The agricultural economy of California would be devastated if honeybees disappeared."
Scientists are focused on solving the problem before it spreads. A blogger from Scientific American says,
"Pinpointing the extent of this strange bee behavior could be key ... by possibly allowing keepers to isolate affected populations ... especially given the newly prevalent mobile commercial hives, which mean that honeybees?and their ailments--are on the move in much greater numbers than ever before."
Science says, as bad as it sounds, there are lots of healthy bees out there.
"The good news is that when Hafernik's group examined a hive that had been set up near the entomology building a few years ago, only about 5% to 15% of the forager bees were infected?not a level that would threaten the hive. For individual bees, of course, being parasitized is bad news. 'It's a death sentence,' Hafernik says. 'We don't find bees that are surviving.'"
Researchers plan to use video monitoring to find out clues more of the zombie mystery.
Uploaded by NewsyWeirdStuff on Jan 5, 2012
Transcript by http://www.newsy.com
BY LAISHI ZHOU
ANCHOR GARY COTTON