One day a few years ago, zombees were discovered in San Francisco.
No, not zombies. No brains were eaten, or undead reanimated. We’re talking about zombees. This is an affliction currently affecting honeybees in North America. These bees have their bodies hijacked by a parasite that slowly eats them from the inside out. As these bees die, their behavior gets more erratic as they leave the hive, searching for light. Once the bees die, the parasites, known as the Zombie Fly (or Apocephalus borealis), break out of the bee as a maggot. They develop into an adult fly, and the cycle begins once again.
It’s a terrible way to die, but what’s worse, this is just one added threat that honeybees in North America face today. This threatens not only honeybee hive health, but humans as well. Currently, we depend on honeybees to pollinate a huge amount of our agricultural food sources, especially fruit and nuts.
Today on the podcast, we talk to Dr. John Hafernik, a Professor Emeritus of Biology at San Francisco State University. As an entomologist, John spends most of his time “looking down”. He discovered zombees one early fall morning on the San Francisco State University campus. We discuss zombees and the threat of the Zombie Fly to the honeybee population. We also discuss the citizen science project ZomBee Watch, which allows citizens all over the country to help scientists out by tracking the spread of this epidemic while watching for infected honeybees. This project allows the general public to get involved in the study, science, and protection of honeybees. Citizen science projects like these help scientists increase their reach, and hopefully will help the bees as we understand the progression of this threat.
You can also find ZomBee Watch on Facebook.