Colony collapse disorder is a mysterious condition that has been decimating the U.S. honeybee population in recent years. Many theories have been put forth to explain the phenomenon, from cell phone waves to a rogue virus, but it now appears that a parasitic fly has been taking over the bodies of honeybees, turning them into mindless zombies.
Scientific American reports that biologist John Hafernik of San Francisco State University accidentally discovered that a species of fly (Apocephalus borealis) has been inserting its eggs into bees’ abdomens, creating a living home for its developing larvae. At some point in the process, the bees lose control of their own motor functions and are lead away from their hives only to have as many as a dozen fly larvae crawl out from the their necks after death.
What’s most disturbing is the fact that the invading fly has been known to parasitize wasp populations, but hasn’t previously been reported as a honeybee killer. Might it continue to jump species, creating zombie-like behavior in other animals? Only time will tell.