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SFSU Researchers: Parasite Fly Turns Bees Into ‘Zombies’

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A honey bee sits on a cucumber plant's flower. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A honey bee sits on a cucumber plant’s flower. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) – Researchers at San Francisco State University said they have found another explanation for the honey bee die-off: A parasitic fly that hijacks their bodies and causes them to abandon hives.

One of the lead researchers, SFSU biology professor John Hafernik, said in a prepared statement that the parasite causes the bees to behave “something like a zombie.”

The study said the phorid fly was found in bees from three-quarters of the 31 hives surveyed in the San Francisco Bay Area. The fly deposits its eggs into the bee’s abdomen, causing the insect to walk around in circles with no apparent sense of direction.

After a bee dies, fly larvae crawl out from its body.

The study is another step in ongoing research to find the cause of colony collapse disorder. The disease, in which all the adult honey bees in a colony suddenly disappear, continues to decimate hives in the U.S. and overseas.

The latest study was published Tuesday in the science journal PLoS ONE.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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