Parasitic Fly Turns Honey Bees Into Zombies

Posted on January 3, 2012

Parasitic Fly on Back on Honeybee


New research, published in PLOS ONE, describes a parasitic fly, Apocephalus borealis, than can turn bees into zombie bees. The fly was previously known to parasitize bumble bees, but not honey bees. The researchers have likely found another cause of Colony Collapse Disorder.

The tiny fly is much smaller than the honey bee, as you can see in the above photograph. The phorid fly injects its eggs in the bee's abdomen. Bees injected with the eggs of the fly start behaving abnormally. The infected bees often walk in circles or lose the ability to stand. The parasitized honey bees also show hive abandonment behavior. The researchers say the infected bees leave the hive at night and die shortly thereafter.

The researchers say that on average, as many as 13 phorid larvae emerge from each dead bee. The fly larvae crawl out of the bee about seven days after the eggs were injected.

The researchers say their study indicates that A. borealis is a "novel parasite of honey bees and documents hive abandonment behavior consistent with a symptom of CCD."

You can read the complete research report here on plosone.org. Scientific American also has an article about the research here.

Photo: Christopher Quock/San Francisco State University