In the later stages of infection, the host honeybee will become increasingly agitated and display weird behavior. These unwilling hosts of the parasite infection are driven to act erratically, or “zombielike,” moments before they die.
Bees see higher frequencies of electromagnetic waves, hence they’re blind without sunlight. It could also be a deliberate and heroic act by the bees to prevent an infestation in their hives.
When the larvae have completed their growth cycle, they burst out of the dead bee’s body and begin to pupate. After pupating, the adult insect fly comes out of the cocoons, and the process repeats.
Bucephalus boreal is belongs to the species of North American parasitic forbid fly known for attacking bumblebees, honeybees, and paper wasps. Cases of this parasitic insect infecting honeybees have been documented in California, South Dakota, Oregon, Washington, Vancouver Island, and Vermont.
This parasite is native to North America, and it’s known for attacking bumblebees and paper wasps. Henrik has yet to gather sufficient information to explain why the parasitic fly attacks honeybees.
The fact that they seem to be thriving isn’t good news for the already decreasing honeybee population. Unfortunately, these insects also act as carriers of Nosema crane and the deformed wing virus.
If the light falls on the entrance of your hive, it might encourage the infected bees not to come out. Don’t worry about being wrong, even if the bee you suspect ends up not being infected.
Some years back, John Henrik, a biologist at San Francisco State University observed a weird behavior in honeybees on the wall of his house. The infected bees show zombie -like behaviors such as wandering away from their hives at night and blindly crawling in circles.
It is the egg that the parasitic flies insert into the bodies of these honeybees that make them deranged before they die. The neurological damage causes the bees to wander out at night in search of artificial light.
However, some sources believe that the parasitic fly manipulates the bees to move to a better place for the eggs deposited in it to mature into maggots. Zombie bees have been mainly seen along the West Coast from San Francisco to Seattle and Santa Barbara.
A survey carried out in the Bay Area by Henrik revealed that 77% of the 31 hives investigated had been affected. Zombie bees have also been discovered in the Hudson Valley, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Vermont.
Studies reveal that honeybees’ colonies have been reducing at an alarming rate in the US which is a bad sign for the food industry. So, if the outbreak of the parasitic fly is not contained, the situation will become severe to the point of threatening humans who depend on food for survival.
Before you go running to grab a silver bullet, wooden cross or garlic necklace, let me explain. Zombie bees is the term being used to describe honey bees that are infected by a parasitic fly-Apocephalus boreal is.
A bug loving biologist, John Henrik, became aware of strange honey bee behavior. He was finding dozens of dead honey bees near outside lights each morning.
They use UV and polarized light to navigate and are “blind” without the sun. However, bees will leave the hive if disturbed by a predator after dark.
This is why you don’t want to be the one holding the flashlight when moving bee hives at night! West Coast researchers and beekeepers noticed honey bees leaving the hive at night.
You may find disoriented dying bees crawling on the ground under the light at dawn. Eggs are deposited inside the bee where they hatch into larva.
Organs and tissues are consumed by the developing fly larva. In the later stages of infection, the host honey bee becomes increasingly agitated.
You may find a file of dead bees at the base of a lamp post. When the fly larvae have completed their growth cycle, they will leave the bee’s body and pupate.
Up to 15 fly larvae may emerge from a single honey bee! After pupating, adult flies emerge from the cocoons and the process repeats.
A citizen scientist project at zombeewatch.org is tracking the spread of Zombies. Also, they have information on how to construct light traps and collect specimens.
Check periodically for small brown pill shaped pupae. It is important to their research to learn your results wither positive or negative.
We don’t know how big an effect this parasitism has on a bee colony. A few years ago, John Henrik detected in the walls of his house a thrumming hive of honeybees.
“The things we do for science.” But by then he had confirmed that his insect guests were the prey of a parasitic fly, Bucephalus boreal is, that injected eggs into their bodies. He noticed downed bees under electric lights in 2008 and put them in a jar as food for his lab’s praying mantises.
Bucephalus, smaller than a fruit fly and looking like any other inconsequential pest, lands on a bee and jabs eggs through cracks in its abdomen. The eggs mature, triggering something in bees that causes them to venture out at night in search of artificial light.
“It’s quite possible it’s the parasite manipulating the host to move to a better place to complete its life cycle,” says Henrik. Whatever the reason, the bee then dies, only to start squirming in a week when maggots burst from its head or thorax.
“ Zombie Fly” maggots eat the inside of bees before crawling out and spinning red cocoons. “Zombies” have been found along the West Coast from Seattle to San Francisco to Santa Barbara.
Henrik tracks sightings at Zombie Watch, which geolocates reports from citizen scientists and answers questions like “Are parasitized honeybees more aggressive than normal?” (Unlike Hollywood zombies, they’re not, but still can sting if handled without forceps.) Getting a bead on the extent of the infestation is important, as honeybees play a huge role in agricultural pollination and are already beset with afflictions, from blood-sucking Narrow destruct or mites to pesticides to fungal diseases to dysentery.