SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 6, 2012 -- After last year's accidental discovery of "zombie"-like bees infected with a fly parasite, SF State researchers are conducting an elaborate experiment to learn more about the plight of the honey bees.
The scientists are tagging infected bees with tiny radio trackers, and monitoring the bees' movements in and out of a specially designed hive on top of the Hensill Hall biology building on campus. At the same time, they are monitoring hives on campus and on the roof of the San Francisco Chronicle's offices for further signs of the mysterious parasite and encouraging the public to participate through a new website ZomBeeWatch.org.
After being parasitized by the Apocephalus borealis fly, the bees abandon their hives and congregate near outside lights, moving in increasingly erratic circles on the ground before dying. The phenomenon was first discovered on campus by SF Professor of Biology John Hafernik, and reported last year in the research journal PLoS ONE, with former SF State master's student Andrew Core as lead author.
It's unclear yet how big of a threat the emerging fly parasite might be to the health of honey bee colonies, or if the parasite is linked to the colony collapse disorder that has devastated honey bee colonies in the United States, say Hafernik and colleagues.
To learn more about how the parasitic fly affects the bees' behavior, the scientists have built a system to track the movements of infected bees in and out of a hive. Each bee has a set of tiny radio frequency trackers -- each no bigger than a fleck of glitter -- attached to the top of its thorax. The bees leave and return to the hive through a small tube outfitted with dual laser readers that interact with the individual trackers.
The readers, which operate in a similar way to barcode scanners in a grocery checkout lane, create "virtuall
|Contact: Nan Broadbent|
San Francisco State University