Zombie flies attacking Eurpoean honey bee

Killer flies are attacking European honey bees, leaving them crawling blindly in circles, wandering away from their hives.
Killer flies are attacking European honey bees, leaving them crawling blindly in circles, wandering away from their hives.

The European honey bee is being attacked by the Apocephalus borealis, also known as the “zombie fly.” 

The killer flies pierce the bees’ abdomens to deposit their eggs, which hatch inside the bees and destroy their brains. The flies then split apart the bees’ heads and bodies, and fly out of the bees. In the weeks between egg deposit and when the mature flies exit the bees, the bees essentially are zombies, crawling blindly in circles, flying away from their hives at night and not going back to their colony.

John Hafernik, a biology professor from San Francisco State University, first saw the zombie bees in 2008 on the West Coast; however, the bees reportedly have been seen recently in New York.

Since he first spotted the bees, Hafernik and several colleagues have founded ZomBee Watch in 2012 to track the zombie fly.  

“We’re not making a case that this is the doomsday bug for bees,” Hafernik said. “But it’s certainly an interesting situation where we have a parasite that seems to affect the behavior of bees and has them essentially abandoning their hives.”

Scientists remain unsure if zombie bees are linked to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a syndrome that makes entire colonies fail after the loss of adult worker bees.

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