‘Zombie bee’ parasite discovered in Oregon

Daily Mail

It’s a fly that is turning honeybees into ‘zombies’, and it’s just been found in Oregon.

A parasite called Apocephalus borealis is infecting pollinators along the west coast and in isolated parts of the east coast by laying eggs inside their bodies and turning the bees into a host for their offpsring.  

Bee-ware: The parasite lays its eggs inside the bee and then takes over its body as a hostAs a result, infect bees are oddly leaving their hives at night, flying around disoriented, much like a zombie, and then eventually dying.

An entomologist at San Francisco State University first noticed the zombie bees on the campus of the college in 2008, and they have since been located all over the country.

However a new batch have now been found in the Beaver State, Oregon Live reported.

Four infected bees were found in both Aloha and Tigard. Two were found in Portland and one in Corvallis.

That is according to ZomBee Watch, an initiative created in 2012 by John Hafernik, the same entomologist that discovered the parasite.

ZomBee Watch volunteers are asked to capture bees in a jar and upload photos photos of pupae and adult flies as they emerge from the insects.

Researchers have more than 100 confirmed cases, most all of them on the West Coast and some isolated cases in Vermont and New York.

Honeybees, crucial for pollinating crops, have been decimated in recent years by a mysterious colony collapse disorder, vampire mites, and nutritional deficiencies. Zombie bees could be yet another horror.

'ZomBees' have been found along the West Coast from Seattle to San Francisco to Santa Barbara, but new finds have placed them in Oregon. They have also been found in isolated areas on the east coast (red)

We’re not making a case that this is the doomsday bug for bees,’ said Hafernik. ‘But it is certainly an interesting situation where we have a parasite that seems to affect the behavior of bees and has them essentially abandoning their hive.’


Apocephalus borealis is a fly that has been laying its eggs in bees and using the insect as a host for their offspring. The infection causes the bees to leave their hives, act disoriented, much like a zombie, and eventually die.

Zombie bees have been located all along the west coast and isolated parts of the east coast, since being discovered in 2008.

The fly had already been known to afflict bumblebees and yellow jackets. Then in 2008, Hafernik made a discovery after scooping up some disoriented bees beneath a light outside his campus office. Before long, he noticed pupae emerging from a bee.

That led to the first of many zombie honeybee cases found in the San Francisco area and beyond. Researchers believe Apocephalus borealis flies attack bees as they forage.

The flies pierce the bees’ abdomens and deposit eggs, affecting the behavior of the doomed bees.

A beekeeper in Burlington, Vermont, detected the first zombie case in the East, in 2013. Then this summer, amateur beekeeper Joe Naughton of Hurley, New York, discovered the first of two recently confirmed cases in the Hudson Valley, north of New York City.

Naughton, who has 200,000 or more bees, is not panicking just yet.

‘You know, the ‘zombie’ thing is a little bit sensational and some people hear that and they go right into alarm bells ringing,’ Naughton said. ‘Where the state of things are right now is mostly just fact finding.’

And there are a lot of facts to find.

It’s possible that zombie watchers like Naughton are just now detecting a parasite that has been targeting honeybees for a long time, though Hafernik notes that reports of honeybees swarming night lights are a recent phenomenon.

It’s not clear if zombie bees can be linked to colony collapse disorder, a syndrome in which whole colonies fail after the loss of adult worker bees. Scientists have not been able to prove what causes CCD, though some believe it could be an interplay of factors including mites, pesticides and habitat loss. For now, threats like mites are more of a concern to researchers than the spread of zombie fly parasites.

‘We have several other stresses on bees and we don’t want any other stress like this one,’ said Ramesh Sagili, an assistant professor of apiculture at Oregon State University. ‘We have to be cautious, but I’m not alarmed that this parasite is going to create a big problem.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3465076/Flight-living-dead-Zombie-bee-parasite-takes-body-insect-discovered-Oregon.html#ixzz41Mk5JNLc
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3 thoughts on “‘Zombie bee’ parasite discovered in Oregon

  1. “Naughton, who has 200,000 or more bees, is not panicking just yet.”

    He should be.

    If the Apocephalus borealis don’t kill them, the varroa mites or neonicotinoids likely will.

    All part & parcel of the depopulation agenda.

    “… one in Corvallis.’

    About 35 miles from here.

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