ArticleReflection: Parasites that turn Bees into Zombies
Myattention was drawn to this article about existing parasites that arehosted by the bees turning them to have zombie-like kind ofcharacter. It was interesting to know that an insect is willing tohost another insect in its body. According to the article, there is acommon name that has been given to the bees that hosts theseparasites spread across the East and West coast (Fleur 1). The beesare referred to as “The Buzzing Dead” however, it is important tounderstand that the bees are not actually dead the name comes fromtheir behavior.
Thearticle informs that the honeybee hoarders are willing to host theseparasites that in turn infect their bodies, making them to act in anunnatural manner by exhibiting erratic and zombie-like behaviors justbefore they succumb and die (floor 1). A professor from San FranciscoUniversity teamed up with other scientists in an effort to understandwhether this new discovery was only in San Francisco or whetherBiologists have in the past missed this behavior.
However,after extensive research that took about four years, the team came upwith the conclusion that this particular trend was in fact spreadacross the country. The team was assisted by volunteers spread acrossthe United States in trying to come establish this unfamiliardiscovery. In this regard, many volunteers helped in identifyinginfected bees from Washington, California, Oregon and even Vermont inPennsylvania as well as New York. As a result more than eight hundredhoney bees were kept under observation and uploaded on the Zombiewatch which is an online database (Fleur 2).
Ifurther sought to understand how their discovery came about and thisarticle highlights this discovery. Dr. Hafernik who is anentomologist in a San Francisco University discovered that there wassomething strange with the honey bees in his campus’ compound in2008. While the professor was walking on his sidewalk, he discoveredthat the honeybees seemed to stagger in cycles. This happened everyweek and he decided to pick them to feed his pet, a Praying Mantis.However, he came to realize that the bees were parasitized during atime when he discovered brown fly pupae (Fleur 2). This made him toinvestigate further and he contacted his other colleagues across theSan Francisco Bay to help and explore this new trait in Bees.
Theexploration of the brown pupae began thereafter and the biologistdiscovered that it was the larvae of a parasite identified as FlyApocephalus Borealis (Fleur 2). During infection, the parasite madethe bees to come out of their hives at night, something that isagainst their natural order, and circle around any form of lightfixture establishing a form of nocturnal dance. Thereafter the honeybees were observed falling to the ground and walking in a strangeuncontrolled manner before they actually succumbed to theirinfections and finally dying. What interested me was the manner inwhich the said parasite was ensuring its life cycle.
Iwas surprised to discover from the article that the female parasitehas a sharp pointed needle-like ovipositor. The female typically usesthis ovipositor to inject the honey bees and in the process,depositing its eggs in the honey bees’ body. The life cycle of theparasite starts inside the bodies of bees (Fleur 2). Later whatsurprises as a fully developed parasite with wings and a head comingout of the dead bee’s body through rupture and finally taking offto start a life of its own.
Fleur,N. (2016). Trackinga parasite that turns bees into zombies.Retrieved from>http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/science/tracking-a-parasite-that-turns-bees-into-zombies.html>2ndMarch, 2016.