First Case of Zombie Fly Parasite Confirmed In Honey Bees in British Columbia

A beekeeper in Nanaimo, British Columbia recently came face to face with a monster in her beehive. Sarah Wallbank reported that she noticed her bees fly erratically at night while circling the lights before dying.

She immediately did an online check which led her too ZomBee Watch and its director, Biology Professor John Hafernik at San Francisco State University.  Professor Hafernik is known for being a legend when it comes to Zombie flies and its parasitic attack in honey bees across North America. He said that Wallbank’s bees are the first in Canada to be confirmed as infected, although other hives in different parts of Canada are being checked for any infections.

Although the infection is concerning and devastating to all bee keepers it is not by any chance a surprise as the Zombie fly is native to North America and has targeted other native wasps and bumblebees. However, of recent it has turned its focus to honey bees introduced by Europeans.

Honey bees are a vital pollinator of agricultural crops and it is still not known how the infestation is likely to affect population, so the Professor is appealing to citizen scientists to keep an eye out for any bees acting strangely.

“By acting strangely, I mean flying around at night when they should be huddled, staying warm in their hives and often getting attracted to light which is sort of our indicator that something unusual is going on in the hives,” Professor Hafernik stated.

Bees are likely to be infected while foraging and they completely become disoriented as the eggs hatch in their abdomen.

Professor Hafernik said that anyone with reports of bees being attracted to light at night should collect the dying insect and save it in a container or baggie. He also asks for one to observe if any larvae emerges from the dead insect, but either way a report should be made to ZomBee Watch.

He has appealed to the citizen scientists to help him and other scientists make a real contribution in the field.

“These are people who can make real scientific contributions and discoveries that have been missed by scientists like me and others over the years,” he said.



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