Feeds

Parasites spark swarm of ZOMBIE BEES

California infestation grave, declare buzz boffins

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.