Southern California breaking news and trends

Zom-bees! Parasitic fly causes zombie-like behavior, may explain honey bee die-off

honey bees zombie

John Hafernik/AP

In this photo provided by San Francisco State University, the larvae of an Apocephalus borealis fly emerges from the dead body of a host honey bee. The A. borealis fly is suspected of contributing to the decrease in the honey bee population.

Northern California scientists studying the worldwide disappearance of honey bees are abuzz with a possible explanation for the die-off and abandonment of hives: a parasitic fly that turns honey bees into zom-bees. 

Scientists say the fly deposits its eggs into the bee's abdomen, causing the infected bee to exhibit zombie-like behavior by walking around in circles with no apparent sense of direction. The bee leaves the hive at night and dies shortly thereafter.

The symptoms mirror colony collapse disorder, in which all the adult honey bees in a colony suddenly disappear.
The disease is of great concern, because bees pollinate about a third of the United States' food supply. Its presence is especially alarming in California, the nation's top producer of fruits and vegetables, where bees play an essential role in the $2 billion almond industry and other crops.