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SF State biologists tag 'zombees' to track their flight
Date:9/6/2012

y a 24-hour record of bees going in and out of the hive to forage," said Christopher Quock, an SF State master's biology student working on the hive's design together with bee keeper Robert MacKimmie.

Knowing exactly when bees leave--and whether they come back--is important for understanding how and when the parasites might cause the bees to abandon their hives, Quock explained. The original study found bees disoriented and dying at night, for instance, but the researchers aren't sure whether the infected bees only leave their hives to fly in the dark.

Quock's challenge has been to create a hive design where the bees "still have room to do their normal behavior." To get a unique identification and time stamp for each bee, he said, the insects have to pass one at a time under the laser readers through a narrow passage.

Quock, who began work on the bees as an undergraduate, has also been perfecting a method for studying infected bees in the lab. "Hopefully in the long run, this information might help us understand how much of a health concern these flies are for the bees, and if they truly do impede their foraging behavior," he said. "We also want to know whether there are any weak links in the chain of interactions between these flies and honey bees that we could exploit to control the spread of this parasite."

In addition to understanding how parasitism affects foraging behavior, Andrew Zink, SF State assistant professor of biology and Quock's advisor, said that the tracking project might eventually shed light on how the infected bees behave inside the hive. "We are also interested in knowing if parasitized foragers are the recipients of aggression by other workers, for example if they're expelled from the hive, or if parasitized foragers behave in ways that disrupt hive productivity."

If enough of the parasitized bees do the wrong "waggle" dances to send unparasitized foragers off in the wrong directions for food, or dis
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Contact: Nan Broadbent
nbroadbe@sfsu.edu
415-338-7108
San Francisco State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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