'Zombie Bees' Spread To Washington State

Melissa Stusinski

Kent, WA - Zombie bees have been discovered in Washington State, and, despite all of you out there thinking that the Zombie Apocalypse is finally upon is, relax, because the invasion is actually a result of a parasitic fly.

Mark Hohn in Kent, Washington didn't pay much attention at first to the dead bees he saw outside his shop when he got home from vacation a few weeks ago, reports The Seattle Times.

Hohn, a novice beekeeper, simply grabbed his leaf blower and blasted them away. It wasn't until a few days later that he realized he had a problem. While Hohn stated, "I joke with my kids that the zombie apocalypse is starting at my house," the issue is really no laughing matter. The dead and dying honey bees on Hohn's 1.25-acre property in Kent are the first confirmed cases of zombie bees in Washington.

The bees are infected by a parasitic fly that causes them to lurch around erratically, even flying in weird patterns at night, before they suddenly drop dead. The so-called zombie bees were first found in California in 2008 by John Hafernik, a San Francisco State University biologist.

The Washington Post notes that Hafernik has been using a website to recruit citizen scientists to track the zombie bee infection across the US. So far, observers have also discovered the parasite-infested bees in Oregon and South Dakota.

The infection presents another threat to the bees that are needed to pollinate crops. Several hives have been failing in recent years because of a mysterious ailment scientists are calling colony collapse disorder. The disorder comes when all the adult honey bees in a colony die suddenly with no explanation.

The infected bees also suffer a gruesome death, which happens after a small adult female lands on the honey bee's back and injects eggs into its abdomen. The eggs then hatch into maggots and eat the bees from the inside out. The maggots then pupate by forming a hard outer shell that looks like a large brown grain of rice. The adult flies emerge in about a month.

Steve Sheppard, chairman of the entomology department at Washington State University, stated that, despite the lack of observations on zombie bees, the parasitic fly may be striking a lot more than we realize. Hafernik hopes to find out just how much the parasitic fly has spread with his website, zombeewatch.org. The site offers easy to follow instruction for collecting suspect bees, watching for parasite signs, and reporting the results.

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