The slow disappearance of the honey bee has gradually be gaining ground in scientific debate, as the loss of this flying and quite humble insect can spell disaster for the planet’s ecology. While it may sound alarming, the honey bee is responsible for the pollination of dozens of different plants and crops, a boon from nature that is estimated to cost in the possible billions. But of late, it has been seen that bee populations have been dwindling, almost decimated by 90 percent in some cases, becoming of alarming concern to scientists.
The main concern scientists have is that of the phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD, which sees hive’s worker bees mysteriously disappear and of course without their labor, bee hives cannot function and soon collapse.
The phenomenon was first identified as a serious problem around 2006 with colonies in both Europe and America being affected.
Scientists were of course stumped as to the cause of CCD with a variety of causes, including fungal infections and pesticide use being blamed. But a new theory proposes quite a radical explanation, one that involves something almost out of science fiction.
In a study by American scientists to be published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, researchers say that a possible cause of CCD could be flies that turn honey bees into zombies. As outlandish an explanation as it may sound, researchers say it is quite a plausible reason for the mysterious CCD.
According to the research, the parasitic fly, Apocephalus borealis, which is a known parasite of bumblebees, honey bees and wasps, is apparently turning honey bees into zombies, making them abandon their hives, eventually dying off. Scientists have said that hive abandonment is one of the main symptoms of CCD.
The parasitic fly infects the honey bee by laying eggs in the bee’s abdomen, following which they display zombie-like behavior, leaving the hive. The bees die when the fly larvae emerge from their bodies. It was also seen that the flies may possibly infect the bees with deformed wing virus and the fungus Nosema ceranae.
Speaking about this possible link of CCD with these parasitic flies, San Francisco State University Professor John Hafernik said, “We don’t know the best way to stop parasitisation because one of the big things we’re missing is where the flies are parasitising the bees. We assume it’s while the bees are out foraging because we don’t see the flies hanging around the bee hives. But it’s still a bit of a black hole in terms of where it’s actually happening,” adding, “Honey bees are among the best-studied insects in the world. So at one level, we would expect that if this has been a long-term parasite of honey bees, we would have noticed.”