Feeds

Parasites spark swarm of ZOMBIE BEES

California infestation grave, declare buzz boffins

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Researchers have found a type of parasite that turns bees into zombies, causing them to exhibit strange behavior before dying.

The discovery was made by accident, after San Francisco State University professor of biology John Hafernik collected some bees he found outside his office so that he could feed them to a praying mantis he had collected on a recent field trip.

“Being an absent-minded professor, I left them in a vial on my desk and forgot about them. Then the next time I looked at the vial, there were all these fly pupae surrounding the bees," he told AFP.

Parasite burrows out of bee

After zombification, the bee dies and
its murderous parasite burrows free

The parasites were identified as Apocephalus borealis, a phorid fly native to North America, and they attack bees by injecting eggs into their abdomens. Once hatched, the parasites kill the bees within a couple of weeks and emerge from the body when they have finished feeding – but it’s the behavior they induce in bees that scientists have found fascinating.

Infected bees exhibit jerky limb movement and general weakness, then leave the hive and congregate around bright lights – behavior more akin to moths. The scientists are trying to determine whether the bees leave the hive of their own accord, or are forced out by healthy members of the swarm.

"When we observed the bees for some time – the ones that were alive - we found that they walked around in circles, often with no sense of direction," said Andrew Core, a graduate student in Hafernik's lab. "They kept stretching [their legs] out and then falling over. It really painted a picture of something like a zombie."

The zombie problem looks to be severe, with infected bees found in 77 per cent of the samples collected in the San Francisco Bay Area. The team suggests this might be one cause of the collapse in bee populations seen in the last five years. Mobile phones have been fingered as one culprit, but scientists are coming to the conclusion that more than one factor must be involved. ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Melting permafrost switches to nasty, high-gear methane release
Result? 'Way more carbon being released into the atmosphere as methane'
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.