Zombie bees have been spotted in a beekeeper’s honeybee hive in Nanaimo, British Columbia, the first one confirmed to be infected in Canada. According to experts, the bees are infested by the parasitic phorid fly, which can also put wasps and bumblebees in a zombie-like state and eventually kill them.
Beekeeper Sarah Wallbank reached out to ZomBee Watch and the group’s director, John Hafernik, a biology professor at San Francisco State University, after noticing that her bees were flying irregularly one night. According to Wallbank, the bees were constantly circling lights and eventually died.
The explanation for this unusual occurrence is the infestation of Zombie flies. The biology professor explains that the behavior is the result of the fly’s eggs hatching inside a bee’s abdomen. The larvae feed on the inside of the bee for five to seven days and eventually come out of the area between the bee’s head and neck. Hafernik likens this situation to aliens erupting out of a human’s stomach.
Hafernik is not surprised that Wallbank’s beehive was affected. Zombie flies are native to North America but the extent of the infestation remains inconclusive.
Hence, Hafernik recommends beekeepers whose bees are acting strangely to report to authorities or to Zombee Watch. He suggests collecting the dead Zombie bees and placing them in a bag or container and observing if larvae emerge.
“We are interested in whatever people find. Even if they find a honey bee that is showing this unusual behavior and no parasites come out of it, we’d like to know that as well,” points out the biology professor.
Hafernik is thankful that Wallbank contacted them and insists other beekeepers across Canada and the US follow suit. Wallbank and other citizen scientists provide scientific contributions and discoveries that are otherwise unnoticed by scientists like Hafernik.