Despite advances in bee breeding, the honey bee is still a very threatened species. Honey bees are needed to pollinate crops, create honey, and are generally very useful members of the animal kingdom, but there’s a new threat to their health alongside colony collapse and the usual dangers of living in the wild. A parasitic fly whose larvae attack the brains of bees and cause erratic behavior and death is spreading in the western United States, and the so-called zombie bees have been seen in Washington by amateur beekeepers.
“I joke with my kids that the zombie apocalypse is starting at my house,” said Mark Hohn, who discovered the zombees at his Seattle home.
the female parasitic fly lands on the back of the honey bee and lays its eggs in the bee’s abdomen. The eggs hatch and the larvae grow, consuming the bee from the inside out. Hence, the unusual behavior and then the death of the bee. After the larvae eat the bee, they pupate into a hard, brown shell akin to a grain of rice and repeat the parasitic fly process. Bee attacks by the parasitic fly are rare, but they are increasing as, apparently, the parasitic fly is finding a good host in the honey bee body.
Zombie bees were first found in California in 2008. They have been seen in Oregon and South Dakota since then. Hohn’s outbreak in Seattle is the first outbreak in Washington and the beginning of a new front in the war on the parasitic fly and its attacks on honey bees.
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