Fly Parasite Turns Honeybees Into Zombies

By Joseph Castro January 03, 2012

fly honeybee
An A. borealis larvae crawls out of a dead honeybee. (Image credit: John Hafernik)

If deadly viruses and fungi weren’t enough, honeybees in North America now must also deal with a fly parasite that causes them to leave their hive and die after wandering about in a zombie-like stupor, a new study shows.

Scientists previously found that the parasitic fly, Apocephalus borealis, infects and ultimately kills bumblebees and paper wasps, while the “decapitating fly,” an insect in the same genus, implants its eggs in ants, whose heads then pop off after the fly larvae devour the ants’ brains and dissolve their connective tissues. Now researchers have discovered honeybees parasitized by A. borealis in 24 of 31 sites across the San Francisco Bay area, as well as other commercial hives in California and South Dakota.

Genetic tests revealed that some of the bees and flies were infected with deformed wing virus and the fungus Nosema ceranae, both of which have been implicated in colony collapse disorder (CCD). The scientists believe that more research into the parasitized bees and their behavior could yield new insights into the devastating disorder.

“Understanding causes of the hive abandonment behavior we document could explain symptoms associated with CCD,” the researchers write in their study, published today (Jan. 3) in the journal PLoS One.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *