Mutant Honey Bees Suffering From Parasitic Strain May Hurt Crops

The Daily Nexus (UCSB) Posted by Aamil Shaik   10/24/12

The Santa Barbara Agricultural Commissioner’s Office recently announced there have been several confirmed sightings of a ‘zombified’ honey bee in downtown Santa Barbara, along with numerous unconfirmed discoveries of the ‘zombees.’

Santa Barbara bees are suffering from a strain of parasite-driven infections, causing the insects to exhibit a number of unusual and potentially crop-killing behaviors such as neglecting their hives, which are vital to local agriculture.

Entomologist Brian Cabrera, who works with the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, said the ‘zombee’ epidemic is the result of an infection from an air-born parasite.

“The bees are zombified because they have been attacked by a parasitic fly. The bee becomes parasitized when a female ‘zombie fly’ lays its eggs inside a bee using a modified structure called an ovipositor,” Cabrera said. “While inside the bee, the eggs hatch out and the zombie fly larvae, which are maggots, begin to consume the contents of the bee.”

According to Cabrera, the insect will begin to display erratic and abnormal behavior as...