SAN FRANCISCO, July 24, 2012 -- The San Francisco State University researchers who accidentally discovered "zombie-like" bees infected with a deadly fly parasite want people across the United States and Canada to look for similar bees in their own backyards.
Today SF State Professor of Biology John Hafernik and colleagues from the SF State Department of Biology and the Center for Computing for the Life Sciences launched ZomBeeWatch.org, a citizen science project to report possible sightings of the parasitized bees.
After being parasitized by the Apocephalus borealis fly, the "zombees" abandon their hives and congregate near outside lights, moving in increasingly erratic circles before dying. The phenomenon was first discovered on the SF State campus by Hafernik and colleagues, and reported last year in the research journal PLoS ONE.
The ZomBeeWatch site asks people to collect bees that appear to have died underneath outside lights, or appear to be behaving strangely under the lights, in a container. They can then watch for signs that indicate the bee was parasitized by the fly, which usually deposits its eggs into a bee's abdomen. About seven days after the bee dies, fly larvae push their way into the world from between the bee's head and thorax and form brown, pill-shaped pupae that are equivalent to a butterfly's chrysalis.
If it looks like their sample contains hatched parasites, "zombee hunters" can upload photos of their sample's contents to confirm whether they have found a parasitized bee. Along with information about the location of the photographed bee, the images will help the scientists build a better map of the honeybee infection.
ZombeeWatch offers tutorials on how to become a zombee hunter, complete with step-by-step instructions for monitoring and collecting bees, building a light trap and uploading data.
Although there have been other reports of parasitized bees in Redwo
|Contact: Nan Broadbent|
San Francisco State University