Feeds

Parasites spark swarm of ZOMBIE BEES

California infestation grave, declare buzz boffins

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.