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?
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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)
  • sanjanaa-nar
    10/20/2015 - 05:51 p.m.

    It is better to focus in the facts rather than panicking because then you can focus on the facts and try to find th main and biggest soulution that is harming the bees and try to solve the issue instead of panicking and doing nothing.

  • rolandc-nar
    10/20/2015 - 05:54 p.m.

    I thought how the flies could take over a bees body and when the bee dies a pupae comesmout of it. It was also a good story for Halloween.

  • haliahb-nar
    10/20/2015 - 06:19 p.m.

    If you panic, you won't be able to solve the problem and then it may be too late. Also, you need to know all the facts and make a plan.

  • warind-nar
    10/20/2015 - 06:35 p.m.

    It is better to focus on the facts rather than panicking because if you panic,then you might be worried about something that is not even happening. But if you focus on the facts, then you have proof that what is happening is real.

  • jasmineg-nar
    10/20/2015 - 06:36 p.m.

    It is important to focus on the facts rather than panicking because panicking could lead to false theories. We need calm thinkers to figure a solution . Nothing is discovered when in a rush or at least discovered right.

  • halenk-nar
    10/20/2015 - 07:26 p.m.

    I think that bees are dangerous to some people

  • aleenag-nar
    10/20/2015 - 07:42 p.m.

    We should focus more on facts then panic because, if you did panic you ( somebody else ) could cause more harm to the bees, and also by focusing on the facts, you can understand whats happening better, and help the bees out

  • adrianam-nar
    10/20/2015 - 09:14 p.m.

    this is so scary but cool

  • annabel1226-yyca
    10/20/2015 - 09:49 p.m.

    We should save more bees, bees are getting extinct. They are getting extinct because when we panic we kill the bee. I need honey to survive this world, but if all the bees are extinct than I will die. Doesn't he scientists wonder how to save bees, they should? We should do that to, we should respect our nature. I have an idea, I think we should make less swimming pools in outdoors, because I see a lot of bees dead there. There should be more queens and all lot of eggs.
    We should grow more flowers, so the bees could nector it.

  • tyn-2-bar
    10/20/2015 - 11:36 p.m.

    Because humans most primal instinct, the one every single animal contains, is flight or fight. People are very easily manipulated to believe almost anything with the right context. I.e. Scientology, Donald Trump, and the Illuminati. When humans are convinced of bad news concerning them, that primal instinct kicks in causing them to panic. So, by focusing on facts, we know what is to come and so we do not panic and become primal beasts.

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