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Zombie honeybees discovered in Washington state

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, September 24, 2012 15:53 EDT
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A honeybee. Photo: Shutterstock.com.
 
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A novice beekeeper in Washington state said this week that he’s found evidence that a parasite which takes control of honeybees much like an imagined “zombie” virus is spreading into new areas, according to The Seattle Times.

The so called zombie bees, or “zombees” for short, are created by a type of parasitic fly called Apocephalus borealis. It injects its eggs into a host, usually bumble bees, and the larvae eat the creature from the inside. Infected bees fly around erratically at night and eventually die.

Beekeeper Mark Hohn told the Times that he noticed piles of dead bees for several days in a row before it occurred to him that he might be witnessing the start of the actual “zombie apocalypse.”

In San Francisco and along the California coast, scientists researching threats to honeybee populations identified zombees in 77 percent of the hives tested in January 2012. This week marks the first time they’ve been spotted as far north as Washington state.

The discovery of zombie honeybees is troubling to biologist John Hafernik, who told the Times that the “zombee” threat is serious, but there’s no way to know how far it has spread. He’s created a website called “ZomBee Watch” to track confirmed infections around the world by training laypeople to collect dead bees and confirm “zombee” infections using simple techniques.
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Photo: Shutterstock.com.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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