Are zombees a doomsday for bees? A honeybee works atop gift zinnia in Accord, N.Y. While scientists have documented cases of tiny flies infesting honeybees, causing the bees to lurch and stagger around like zombies before they die, researchers don’t know the scope of the problem. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Are zombees a doomsday for bees?
Lexile

Call them "The Buzzing Dead."
 
Honeybees are being threatened by tiny flies that lead them to lurch and stagger around like zombies. The afflicted bees often make uncharacteristic night flights. They sometimes buzz around porch lights before dying.
 
Well-documented on the West Coast, some zombie-bee cases also have been detected in eastern states by volunteers helping track its spread. This comes as honeybees have already been ravaged in recent years by mysterious colony collapse disorder, vampire mites and nutritional deficiencies.
 
"We're not making a case that this is the doomsday bug for bees," said John Hafernik. He is a biology professor at San Francisco State University. "But it is certainly an interesting situation where we have a parasite that seems to affect the behavior of bees and has them essentially abandoning their hive."
 
In 2012, Hafernik started a project to enlist people to track the spread of zombie bees. It is called ZomBee Watch. Participants are asked to upload photos of the bees they collect and photos of pupae and adult flies as they emerge. They have more than 100 confirmed cases.
 
The fly had already been known to afflict bumblebees and yellow jackets. Then in 2008, Hafernik made a discovery after scooping up some disoriented bees beneath a light outside his campus office. Before long, he noticed pupae emerging from a bee.
 
That led to the first of many zombie honeybee cases found in the San Francisco area and beyond. Researchers believe Apocephalus borealis flies attack bees as they forage. The flies pierce the bees' abdomens and deposit eggs. That affects the behavior of the doomed bees.
 
A beekeeper in Burlington, Vermont, detected the first zombie case in the East. That was in 2013. Then this summer, amateur beekeeper Joe Naughton of Hurley, New York, discovered the first of two recently confirmed cases. He found them in the Hudson Valley, north of New York City.
 
Naughton, who has 200,000 or more bees, is not panicking just yet.
 
"You know, the 'zombie' thing is a little bit sensational and some people hear that and they go right into alarm bells ringing," Naughton said. "Where the state of things are right now is mostly just fact finding."
 
And there are a lot of facts to find.
 
It's possible that zombie watchers like Naughton are just now detecting a parasite that has been targeting honeybees for a long time. But Hafernik notes that reports of honeybees swarming night lights are a recent phenomenon.
 
It's not clear if zombie bees can be linked to colony collapse disorder. It is a syndrome in which whole colonies fail after the loss of adult worker bees. Scientists have not been able to prove what causes CCD. Some believe it could be an interplay of factors including mites, pesticides and habitat loss. For now, threats like mites are more of a concern to researchers than the spread of zombie fly parasites.
 
"We have several other stresses on bees and we don't want any other stress like this one," said Ramesh Sagili. He is an assistant professor of apiculture at Oregon State University. "We have to be cautious, but I'm not alarmed that this parasite is going to create a big problem."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is it better to focus on facts rather than panicking?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (109)
  • charliet-orv
    10/19/2015 - 03:37 p.m.

    It is better to focus on facts rather than panicking because if we focus on facts we can find a way to prevent the bad stuff from happening in the future.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    10/19/2015 - 11:27 p.m.

    I think that it is terrible that the honey bees are being infected. Flies, mites, and parasites have caused the honey bee to act in strange ways. The bees also sometimes desert or give up on hives because they are caused to acts unusual and are being harmed. Honey bees are really important to the world and they make up a lot of money. I hope that the honey bees would be well and not be as effected by the flies, parasites, and mites. If the zombie bees spread or abandon their hives, there will be a lot of problems.

  • williamb-4-bar
    10/20/2015 - 12:09 p.m.

    We should stay calm because we don't want to alarm anyone plus there's bigger things to worry about.

  • katelyna-nar
    10/20/2015 - 03:50 p.m.

    It is better to focus on facts rather than just panicking because we don't know how long this parasite has been on this species. Or if it is connected to anything else, even if we knew everything about this, it is always better to stay calm than panicking.

  • alic-nar
    10/20/2015 - 04:05 p.m.

    Wow they need to find a way to cure this. This is very interesting also ?????

  • mariaha-nar
    10/20/2015 - 04:26 p.m.

    If you were to focus on the facts you are able to learn different things and if you panicked you wouldn't really know what is going on.

  • ronp-nar
    10/20/2015 - 04:28 p.m.

    Yes because instead of wasting time panicking about the rise of ZomBees, you can get to work and find notes to resolve the problem sooner, and faster.

  • naiyasiaa-nar
    10/20/2015 - 04:33 p.m.

    It is better to collect facts rather than panicking because, it could cause issues and all it will do is make matters worse by panicking. That would not be safe or necessary.

  • franciscov-nar
    10/20/2015 - 05:38 p.m.

    People Should focus better on facts rather than panicking. Facts are better than panicking because with facts, there will be a better solution in stopping these invasive insects affect bees. When panicking, there will be a lot more than just "zombie bees." All there has to be is patience, evidence, and calm.

  • davidc-nar
    10/20/2015 - 05:49 p.m.

    It is important not to panic in a time like that because when you panic, you do things without thinking about them. If you were a beekeeper and you panicked, you might do something like get rid of all of your bees just because you don't want to get infected. If you stayed calm, you would wait for more facts to come out, or even better, a vaccine, you would save your bees and most likely your business.

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