‘Zombie’ flies are linked to death of bee colonies

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A MYSTERIOUS phenomenon that has devastated honey bee populations might be linked to a “zombifying” parasitic fly, scientists believe.

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is marked by the sudden disappearance of worker bees from a colony.

It was first recognised as a serious problem by US bee- keepers in 2006, but has also affected bee colonies across western Europe. In some cases, bee losses have reached levels of up to 90 per cent.

Viral and fungal infections and toxic chemicals in pesticides have all been suggested as possible explanations for CCD.

The new theory involves the parasitic fly Apocephalus borealis, which is already known to attack bumble bees. Evidence has now emerged of the fly targeting honey bees.

The insect lays its eggs in the abdomens of bees, which start displaying “zombie” behaviour, abandoning their hives to congregate near lights. Finally they die, and the fly larvae emerge from their bodies.

Professor John Hafernik, from San Francisco State University, said: “We don’t know the best way to stop this because one of the big things we’re missing is where the flies are parasitising the bees. It’s a bit of a black hole.”

JOHN VON RADOWITZ