Scientists seek 'ZomBee' hunters to combat undead honey bees
U.S. researchers have determined that a parasitic fly called Apocephalus borealis is responsible for the "zombie-like" behaviour of countless honey bees in California and South Dakota.
Dubbed "zombie flies," these parasites lay eggs inside the bee's body. Infected bees are said to wander away from their hives at night to congregate near a source of light, where they will eventually become stranded and die.
"We found that they walked around in circles, often with no sense of direction," said San Francisco State University's Andrew Core, lead author on the bee parasite study published in open access journal Plos One.
"They kept stretching [their legs] out and then falling over. It really painted a picture of something like a zombie."
In an effort to learn more about how, why and where exactly this is happening, a group of scientists in San Francisco have launched ZomBeeWatch.org.
This citizen science project encourages everyday people to participate by submitting their own observations and specimens.
"We need your help finding out where honey bees are being parasitized by the Zombie Fly and how big a threat the fly is to honey bees," reads the website. "There are many ways you can get involved. It can be as easy as collecting honey bees that are under your porch light in the morning, under a street light or stranded on sidewalks."
Visitors are also encouraged to plot the location of their own zombie fly and Zombee sightings onto a crowdsourced map of infection.
Honey bees are already a species under threat, and an unexplained phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is widely believed to be a major factor in the drastic decline of honey bee populations in North America.
Zombee Watch's organizer Dr. John Hafernik says that understanding what's going on in the case of "ZomBees" could help in understanding what causes CCD.
"If we can enlist a dedicated group of citizen scientists to help us, together we can answer important questions and help honeybees at the same time."
Would you be interested in participating in a citizen science project? What do you think of this one? Let us know your thoughts below.
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