SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – When San Francisco State entomologist John Hafernik first discovered that a parasite was transforming honeybees into a zombie-like state, he wondered if it was only a local phenomenon.
So starting in 2012, he began recruiting volunteers nationwide to collect dead bees and send them to his laboratory.
Since that time, ZomBee Watch has been launched and now includes some 800 observations of zombie-like honeybees in the Bay Area and beyond.
“The big question for us was, ‘Is this a San Francisco thing?’ Or something that is taking place all over the country that has not been noticed by biologists before,” he told the New York Times.
He now has identified bees turned into a zombie-like state in Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Pennsylvania and New York.
However, the worst infestations may be in the Bay Area. According to Hefernik, he has found the parasitic infestation in as many as 80 percent of the bee hives he’s examined.
The parasite injects its eggs into the body of the bees, where the eggs incubate and hatch. The larve then feed off the internal organs of the living bee and eventually burst out of the infected bee’s body.
“As far as we know this is a death sentence,” Hafernik told the Times. “We don’t know any bees that have survived being parasitized by these maggots.”