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Honeybees, Already Threatened, Now Have to Contend with “Zombie” Parasite

June 8th, 2015

Honeybees, Already Threatened, Now Have to Contend with “Zombie” Parasite

One beekeeper describes the strange, erratic behavior of infected honeybees as “flight of the living dead” after observing the unfortunate creatures have been infected.  The fly parasite that does the damage is called Apocephalus borealis, and is known as a source of parasitic invasion for other flying insects.

The “zombie” honeybees were originally discovered in 2008 in the western United States of California and Oregon, as well as in South Dakota.  But now an amateur beekeeper named Anthony Cantrell has observed the zombie behavior in his hive in Burlington, Vt.  Since this discovery is recent, Cantrell and the other members of ZomBeewatch.org are waiting to see if the flies survive this winter.

The parasitic flies lay eggs inside the bees, which causes the bizarre behavior that first labeled their victims as zombies.  Later, when the eggs actually hatch inside them, the bees quickly die.  Although this parasite is yet another threat to the bee population, only a few cases have been seen so far on the east coast.

“I just thought, great, one more thing that the poor honeybee has to deal with,” commented Cantrell, who has two hives.

The Apocephalus borealis was originally identified almost a century ago, and has gone after bumblebees and yellow jackets, but never honeybees.

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