Bees are pictured on a bee hive in Vienna, July 11, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)
When Washington novice beekeeper, Mark Hohn, discovered dead bees lying near his shop, he didn’t realize he had found the first case of “zombie bees” in his state.
“I joke with my kids that the zombie apocalypse is starting at my house,” Hohn told the Seattle Times.
According to The Associated Press, a parasitic infection is afflicting bees, causing them to fly at night randomly until they die. The first case of “zombie bees” was discovered in California by San Francisco State University biologist John Hafernik in 2008.
The Seattle Times reported that the biologist uses his website ZombeeWatch.org to track the spread of the parasite throughout the country and how it is affecting bee colonies. “We really would like to get more samples from Washington and from all over,” Hafernik told the Times.
After noticing bees flying around the lights of his shop at night before dying on the floor, Hohn decided to collect some specimen in a Ziploc bag. He told reporters, “Curiosity got the better of me.”
Hafernik explained that the parasite inject their eggs into the bee’s abdomen, which then hatch into maggots. “They basically eat the insides out of the bee,” he said. While the parasite, which is native to North America, has been known to affect bumblebees, some types of wasps and now honeybees, it is not a threat to humans.
According to the Seattle Times, Hafernik has found that the parasite has affected bees throughout California, Oregon and now Western Washington. Almost 80 percent of hives in the San Francisco Bay Area are also affected, the Times reported.
Hohn, who has 1.25-acre area for his bees, doesn’t know how many of his hives have been affected. “I don’t really have a way of quantifying how bad it is, which is the scary part,” he said.
Scientists have accredited the decline in bee populations to a mysterious disease called Colony Collapse Disorder, the Seattle Times said. The disorder causes all the adult honeybees in a colony to unexpectedly die, the AP reported. The decline has been going on for the past couple of years and has threatened crops that depend on bee pollination.
While the new parasite is not known to be a key factor in the bees decline, Steve Sheppard, chairman of the entomology department at Washington State University, told the Times, “It may occur a lot more widely than we think.” Hafernik hopes that his website will be able to track just that.
Hohn believes that once people begin to look for more signs of the parasites, the number of sightings will rise. He said, “I’m pretty confident I’m not the only one in Washington state who has them.”