Dying 'Zombie bees' impacting Oregon honey bee farms

Credit: NBC

Dying 'Zombie bees' impacting Oregon honey bee farms

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by Keely Chalmers, KGW Staff

KTVB.COM

Posted on September 27, 2012 at 1:16 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 27 at 1:17 PM

PORTLAND - It sounds like a bad horror movie, but "zombie" bees are real.

Robert Joki was the first to document a zombie bee in the Pacific Northwest.

Three weeks ago, he was outside his Southeast Portland home one night when he noticed that his beloved honey bees had left their hives. It was unusual behavior.

“We could see honey bees kind of flying in circles and smashing into the sidewalk and smashing into the bushes. There were maybe 20-30 bees out doing this strange behavior,” recalled Joki.

Joki’s honey bees were dying. He captured one and put it in a jar. A week later, he made a shocking discovery.

“All of a sudden 14 (pupae) came out when the bee's head popped off,” he said. Scientists confirmed the honey bee had been infected by a tiny egg-laying fly.

Oregon State University assistant professor Dr. Ramesh Sagili is studying the parasitic fly, which is actually native to our area.

“It has been attacking bumblebees and some other wasps, like yellow jackets, but we have never documented this in honey bees, even today we don't know how serious it is,” said Sagili.

Researchers don't know why the honey bees are being targeted now or how many are infected, but they say since the pollinating bees are critical for our agriculture, it's imperative they find out.

If you capture a zombie bee, or want more information on how you can help go to ZombieBeeWatch.org.

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