John Hafernik, a scientist at San Francisco State University, was looking for something to feed a praying mantis in his lab. He found some bees outside his classroom.
“But being an absent-minded professor,” Hafernik told the San Jose Mercury News, “I left them in a vial on my desk and forgot about them.”
A week later, Hafernik came across the vial where the bees were dead. To his suprise however, the dead bees were surrounded by young, developing flies. An adult fly was feeding on the bees.
Hafernik believes the parasitic might be a contributing factor to honey bee colony collapse. Here is why:
- The parasitic fly deposits its eggs into a bee’s abdomen.
- The bee becomes infected by the eggs and begins acting like a zombie.
- It stumbles in circles with no sense of direction, or may be unable to stand at all.
- Finally, the bee leaves its hive and dies.
“It’s the flight of the living dead,” Hafernik said. “[The bees] kept stretching [their legs] out and then falling over. It really painted a picture of something like a zombie.”
Researchers have not been able to find the cause of the honey bee colony collapse. They believe that many factors are working together. Pesticides
, lack of nutrition, disease, and stress have been thought to be part of the problem.
"We don't fully understand the web of interactions," Hafernik said. "The parasite could be another stressor. Or it could play a primary role in causing the disease."
Research is continuing.