Tiny Flies Turning Honeybees into Zombies

Tiny flies have been found responsible for turning honeybees into creatures that lurch around like zombies. Experts have found that the afflicted honeybees are frequently making unusual night flights and at times buzzing around the porch lights before dying.

Although these incidents are primarily taking place on the West Coast, volunteers working to track the spread of this epidemic have also detected similar zombie-bee cases in eastern states.


This is not the only threat the honeybees have faced in recent times; the past few years have seen these insects getting ravaged by issues like nutritional deficiencies, vampire mites, and the mysterious colony collapse disorder.

Professor John Hafernik of San Francisco State University said that the tiny flies cannot be referred to as the Doomsday insect for bees, but they have undoubtedly given birth to an absorbing situation as in them, scientists have found parasites that are causing behavioral changes in bees and forcing them to abandon their hive.

In 2012, Hafernik began a project for enlisting people for tracking the spread of the zombie bees. The project was named ZomBee Watch. People participating in the project are asked to upload images of bees collected by them as well as images of both pupae and adult flies. Right now, the team has got to know about 100 confirmed cases.

These tiny flies were initially known for afflicting only yellow jackets and bumblebees. However, in 2008, Hafernik came to know that these minuscule insects also have a severe impact on honeybees.

This discovery took place when the San Francisco State University professor scooped up a few disoriented bees underneath a light adjacent to his office at the University. When checking the bees, he saw pupae emerging from one of them. This was surely the first of several zombie honeybee cases identified to date in and around San Francisco. The first zombie bee situations in the east, on the other hand, was identified in 2013 by a beekeeper from Burlington, Vermont.

The scientific name of the tiny flies responsible for turning honeybees into zombies is Apocephalus Borealis. Scientists believe that these flies attack honeybees as they forage. According to them, Apocephalus Borealis pierces the abdomen of the bees and deposit their eggs there.  This results in significant changes in the behavior of the devastated bees.