The parasitic fly Apocephalus borealis may be the reason why bees are abandoning their hives, new research suggests.
The phenomenon of zombie bees was recently spotted in some Easters states and along the West Coast in the United States. According to scientists, the bees seem to unwillingly abandon their hives which may lead to colony collapse disorder (CCD).
Scientists believe that the Apocephalus borealis flies may be placing their eggs in the stomachs of the bees. When the eggs hatch, the maggots make the bees change their behaviour, which is why oftentimes the bees tend to go on atypical night flights.
Colony collapse disorder usually occurs when most of the worker bees abandon the beehive. The US Environmental Protection Agency stated that the main reason that leads to CCD is pesticide poisoning or mite invasion. Scientists are still unsure whether the ‘zombie bees’ phenomenon can be linked to colony collapse disorder.
Dr. John Hafernik, a biology professor at San Francisco State University, said that although this new phenomenon cannot be 100 percent linked to CCD, is in nonetheless interesting to see how the Apocephalus borealis parasitic fly affects the behaviour of the bees, making them abandon their hive.
The ZomBee Watch project, organised in 2012 by Dr. Hafernik, was meant to reach out to the citizens and allow them to document where the Apocephalus borealis infestations occurred nationwide. Hafernik said that the more knowledge they have about the parasitic fly, the more they can prevent it from spreading into other regions of the world.
“You know, the ‘zombie’ thing is a little bit sensational and some people hear that and they go right into alarm bells ringing,” Joe Naughton a beekeeper in New York, stated.
Although currently there is no evidence that the parasite affects colony productivity, or that it is directly linked to CCD, experts are worried that this could potentially hurt the bee population.
Robert Mackimmie, a beekeeper in San Francisco, said that the bee colonies have already dropped by 40 percent in the United States. Ramesh Sagili, an assistant professor of apiculture at Oregon State University, also believes that the bees have enough stresses as it is, so the current one is not needed at all.
Image Source: inhabitat