Suddenly, we are all over the news. Well ... our bees are anyway.
The San Francisco State entomology study we participated in has been published and, since it was based in San Francisco, it made the local news. Since it was another chance to talk about the importance of honeybees and provide tantalizing clues to the mystery of Colony Collapse Disorder, it made the regional and green press. The story also gave everybody the opportunity to talk about creatures being turned into zombies, so, naturally, it's gone global.
Yes, Folks: we have brain-dead zombies roaming around our backyard. But only a few. And much fewer than last summer.
The study itself showed that a particular, very small fly which was known to parasitize bumble bees also infects and kills honey bees. It also showed that infected bees will leave the hive at night (something healthy bees would almost never do) and eventually die outside the hive. Somehow the parasite causes the bee to alter its normal behavior, robs it of motor control, eats its brain, and causes gleeful journalists to write things like, "flight of the living dead."
The researcher who periodically came by the house to collect bees for the study was fairly certain some of our bees were parasitized judging from the behavior of our backyard zombies. It turned out that more than three quarters of the hives surveyed from all over the region have some signs of infection.
The good news is, many hives just cope with this additional stressor. All kinds of diseases and pests can assault individual bees, but the colony survives and thrives. (Even without baseball bats and shotguns).