An odd new parasite is affecting the life of our world’s pollinators, and so comes forth The Flying Dead: bees turned into zombies by killer flies.
- The parasitic fly has been first encountered in 2008, in California
- John Hafernik has launched a website dedicated to ZomBee Watch in 2012
- It’s believed that the effects of A. borealis is a contributor to CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder)
- CCD was responsible for 60% of bee hives lost in 2008
It’s not only a sensational sounding condition, but it is, in fact, a bit of a worrying situation. Honeybees populations are already in a steep decline. Global warming is posing as one of their threats, among many other issues that endanger their mass survival. And, by extension, affect our lives as well.
It has been suggested that one out of three bites of our food should be credited to bees.
However, another threat has been discovered for these highly important insects that are crucial to the world’s food source. The parasitic fly Apocephalus borealis has been noted to affect honeybees in the western part of the United States, and some cases in the East. It has an interesting yet deadly effect.
The killer fly essentially lays its eggs within the bees. When they hatch, the larvae come out of their tiny eggs and begin feasting on its insides. It’s likely as gruesome as it sounds. The fly larvae eat the honeybees from the inside out, starting with its muscle and nerves system. This paves the way into an odd and lethal behavior changes in their hosts.
Infected bees leave their hives at odd hours during the night. They fly about idly, even becoming attracted to porch lights, colliding and then falling to their death. One could say they’re reacting in a zombie-like fashion. The parasite changes their behavior, and while they’re not attacking their own kind or hunting for brains, they’re stripped of their normal patterns.
After the bee has fallen, the killer fly larvae make their way out its body within a few weeks. They burrow between the neck and thorax, essentially decapitating the dead bee.
According to John Hafernik, who is a biology professor at San Francisco State University and has observed this phenomenon since 2008, this isn’t a “doomsday bug for bees”, but it certainly could be in the future. The parasite’s effect is definitely “interesting”, even though deadly.
Zombie bees, or zombees, have been spotted first on the Eastern coast, but were recently found to spread to other regions. Reports have their presence spreading to New York, Vermont, Oregon and South Dakota. There has been a number of 100 cases already reported among various areas.
The parasitic fly seems to be a contributor to the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that affects bee hives and their failure. It’s a common occurrence when adult flies abandon their homes, that has been blamed on 60% of the bee hives lost in 2008.
While experts are not worried about A. borealis as a grave danger to populations now, it might become one in the future.
Image source: deviantart.com